Samantha Fielding started shooting nightclub performers shortly after she had two babies “literally back to back,” and her photography career had been put on hold. “I happened across a burlesque dancer and she asked me to photograph her. Having been a huge fan of dressing up myself…(possibly a closet performer), I jumped at the chance to shoot her in all of her sequins and feathers,” she tells PDN by email. Sequins and feathers were just the beginning. For her series “The Performer,” Fielding has shot 45 subjects, from alternative cabaret artists and drag queens to burlesque dancers and clowns, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. Her goal is to reach Paris, Berlin, New York and Las Vegas as well, and make 100 portraits in all.
Her subjects—many of whom have very successful careers—bask in transgression, dressing in latex and face paint, tutus and garter belts, as the Virgin Mary or a prisoner in chains, always presenting themselves with swagger and poise. Writes Fielding, “Night is a time for reinvention. No-one understands this better than the underground performer. Bursting free from the limitations of routine and shedding the skin of an everyday identity, they become someone else. Someone braver. Someone wilder. Someone truer…The irony is that they find exhilaration and purpose in their respective acts or identities, and yet they are often judged and mocked as oddballs, outcasts, or freaks.” Working on the project, “You could say it’s like running away with the circus.”