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Drag – John McRae Photography & Studio

Minnie Cooper “kills it” on Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Costume: House of Priscilla, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau

Minnie Cooper is one of Sydney’s most eminent drag queens. Her career spans decades and she hails from the flamboyant, golden years of drag in Sydney in Oxford Street. Most recently she has done a sterling job starring in the latest series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under (currently showing on Stan). Minnie made it through to the fourth episode, before she was ceremonially ejected from the line-up by Ru Paul herself. She departed with enviable glamour and style.

Minnie asked me to organise a shoot to document some of the original looks which “she rocked” during the four episodes of Drag Race Down Under. Here are some images from that shoot. Think Lucille Ball, operatic diva, Madame Butterfly, Penelope Pitstop. It is always great to work with Minnie, who is a real pro, an authentic Sydney icon and a generous mentor to upcoming talent. I know that Minnie has further show-stopping looks which deserve to be properly documented, and so I look forward to our next photography session together.

Costume: Dallas Della Force, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Jewellery: House of Priscilla
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Boots: House of Priscilla
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau
Costume: @grantmargetts, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Boots: House of Priscilla
Costume: Mitzi MacIntosh
Minnie with Frangipani, dress Kirsten Damned
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Earrings: Miss Madinson 3D

BRENDA CALL ME – Season 2

Courtney Act and Vanity are at it again. Following their very successful first season of the NOVA podcast of Brenda, Call Me, where our two partners in crime would meet each week to “chew the fat” on what had got them all fired-up, Courtney and Vanity will be back on the airwaves from this Thursday, May 19, 2022. 

In mid-April, we shot these promotional images at Sydney Props with the team from NOVA, as well as Stephanie Liebeck (On-site Stylist) and Russall Beatie (Head Stylist), both from Giant Panda King, who were responsible for the concept, set design and additional photo re-touching.

But wait…..there’s a narrative!

According to Courtney’s instagram (@courtneyact), while she was exploring the planet Octopoda, Courtney “has gotten herself into trouble” while on an Intergalactic Lady Grindr date gone wrong. 


“You don’t look anything like your picture! You have 9 arms instead of 8! BRENDA, CALL ME!”
“Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you.!”

While aboard the USS Brenda, in orbit around the planet Octopoda, Vanity hears a distress call from Courtney, whose intergalactic Grindr date has gone horribly wrong. “Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you!”

Vanity finds Courtney hand-cuffed to a Chick-Feather-Boa Tree and tells the 9 armed catfish, who looks more like an octopus, to scarper before she zaps him with her stun-ing gun.
Courtney and Vanity beam back up to the “USS Brenda” to relative safety.
Finally, the two friends celebrate in the safety of the mother-ship.

Catch these two characters from this Thursday on a weekly basis at NOVA Podcasts (Brenda Call Me). As Courtney states….”Vanity and I are bringing you more astounding honesty, friendship and some queer history!”

Cherry, Katia & Nadia step into the studio

Nadia, Katia and Cherry photographed in one of their extravagant performance costumes

It was an afternoon of colour and movement in my Sydney studio photographing the three Thai beauties Nadia, Katia and Cherry. These hard-working showgirls make up a dedicated trio who entertain across the country in clubs and entertainment centres, performing with Las Vegas glitz and Hollywood glamour. 

Coming out of lockdown hibernation, the girls required some new, beguiling imagery for their upcoming performances. Filled with costumes, feathers and diamantes, my studio was like a backstage dressing room and performance space for Mardi Gras. Setting up the shoot was a lot of fun.

Cherry, Katia and Nadia

Qween Lear as part of the Sydney Festival – Ruled by drag qweens, fuelled by love.

I was asked to produce imagery for the production of Qween Lear which will be one of the headlining performances in the 2022 Sydney Festival. So along with Dee Dee as a fierce Sydney drag identity, we set up a photo-shoot in the mens toilets of the Cricketers Arms pub in Surry Hills to promote this immersive theatrical performance. As part of the festival programme, Qween Lear will take place in the Hordern Pavilion, itself the site of so many parties in the age of excess and ecstacy.

Part rave, part theatrical extravaganza, Qween Lear explores the demise of Sydney’s party era through the tale of an ageing drag matriarch played by Minnie Cooper (AKA Aaron Farley), abdicating her nocturnal throne. Set over one night around the turn of the millennium and stacked with Australia’s fiercest performers, a dazzling light show and throbbing original score, it’s a joyous love letter to the legends and legendary stories of Sydney’s lost nightlife.   

The story of Sydney’s nightlife is inseparable from its queer history. Sparked by the 1978 Mardi Gras protest, the birth of house music, and a flourishing queer counterculture, our fair and feisty city gained an untouchable reputation for hedonistic nightlife in the eighties and nineties. Hordern Pavilion parties were the red-hot and sweaty epicentre of this fantasy world of love, fetish and house music.  Now it will the home of a queer version of the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear.

Producer, Adam Lowe (ALG – art and culture events management), prompts Dee Dee on set.
Sydney Festival Guide, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November, 2021

Post-show Exhibition:  At the conclusion of the Qween Lear performance in the Hordern Pavilion, ticket holders are invited to a free digital photography exhibition representing some of Sydney’s most iconic parties from the late twentieth century. This project has been proudly supported by the Powerhouse Museum.

Book your tickets here: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/qween-lear

Trevor Ashley launches new looks

Trevor Ashley, the Australian musical theatre actor, cabaret and drag artist based in Sydney, is continually inventing new characters and new looks.

Currently he has been working on the Drag Hag podcast and providing re-caps of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under (to see episode 4, click here).

At the studio Trevor posed under the lights showcasing a series of vibrant, extravagant and fun new alter egos with costumes by Frida Las Vegas, under the master touch of Daniel Cater (aka Dallas Dellaforce) who took care of hair, make-up and styling.

Daniel and Trevor in the make-up chair

As a chameleon and from my experience of working with Trevor since the early 2000s, I never quite know who is going to be channeled on set…..Liza, Shirley, Edna or one of his brand new superstars.

BRENDA, CALL ME!

One calm Friday morning in January, I walked onto a retro set which had been constructed at Sydney Props Specialists in Marrickville. I love this place. It’s like walking through the door of a “dressing cupboard” into a magical universe in a parallel dimension.

Vanity Fair and Courtney Act were putting the final touches to their make-up, as they were getting ready for their close-ups. I quickly set about constructing the lighting rig on the set so we could commence shooting. Playing the roles inspired by two friends in a 1980s chat show, Vanity and Courtney posed on the two main sets … one a “high-tech” office reception area with a huge desk-top computer and antiquated Eighties technology, and the other a pastel pink bedroom scene reminiscent of a Barbie boudoir.

These images are being used by NOVA Entertainment to promote their upcoming podcast by Vanity Fair and Courtney Act entitled “Brenda, Call Me” beginning on February 11. Here’s the promo blurb….

Drag sisters in crime, Courtney Act and Vanity have a new podcast: Brenda, Call Me! Friends for over twenty years, they’ve gone through it all together. Catch up with them each week as they let it all hang out discussing everything and nothing. It’s the Seinfeld of podcasts. Coming soon.

Vanity Fair
Drag sisters
Courtney Act

Step Back in Time at the Beresford

“Step Back in Time” is the latest showcase for the best talent Sydney has to offer, performing at the Beresford Hotel on Friday and Sunday nights from February 12

I recently did the photography for the poster for the new Beresford show, with all the cast – Minnie Cooper, Jaqui St Hyde, Mynx Moscato, Troy Stone and Hayden Baulch. Think of a heady mix of the Great Gatsby and Saturday Night Fever.

And just like Kylie sang:

“When you can’t find the music. To get down and boogie. All you can do is step back in time”.

Looks like great fun….3 course dinner and show. Click here:

ABSOLUTELY XMAS: Putting up the tinsel for a red and white extravaganza at the Beresford

Just in time for Christmas the Beresford Hotel is hosting a Yuletide extravaganza….with a difference. Minnie Cooper is leading a Christmas inspired pageant of drag brilliance with red bows, poinsettia and candy cane.

Joining Minnie on-stage are the illustrious talents of Tora Hymen, Jacqui St Hyde and Mynx Moscato, with Troy as the Little Drummer Boy.

Christmas tinsel and glitter arrived early at my studio. All we are waiting for now is Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer.

Tora Hymen
Minnie Cooper
Mynx Moscato
Jacqui St Hyde
Troy (from the Nutcracker Suite)

“DRAG BECOMES HER”

No rest for the wicked!  Even though I was technically on holidays, over Xmas I agreed to do a job for a few cool performers that I have worked with before.

I took the job because they’re great fun to work with and at the same time, very professional in their approach.

The task on hand was to loosely re-create the “Death Becomes Her” poster image for a new drag show these guys were about to launch at Stonewall in Oxford St, Darlinghurst.

Below is a shot of the guys together during the shoot……

_MG_1463

Well the poster is ready and the show is about to launch on a Friday night at Stonewall.

See the final result below and go along and have a look at what these guys are capable of…..

LRPoster