Chantal Regnault: Deep in Vogue
French-born photographer and documentarist Chantal Regnault left Paris for New York after the May 1968 uprisings. She began documenting the house ballroom and voguing scene in the late 1980s, capturing it at its height.
Her collection, Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92, was released this year by Soul Jazz Records. Regnault took some time to answer a few questions related to the publication.
Who did you work with in editing the images for the book and how long did it take?
Actually, Stuart Baker, the publisher, did the editing. I was in the US, he was in London. By the end I was happy with it, I like his choice of mixing color and B/W, documentary and portrait. It’s lively. But, I am not so happy about the cheapness of a few things; paper, color rendition, bad foldings on some photos. But, I guess they are better out there than in their archive boxes…
Approximately how many images or rolls of film do you have from this project?
I shot 413 B/W rolls and edited 644 35-mm color slides and 313 5×7 color transparencies.
When was the last ball you attended and where was it?
Continental Ball, Copacabana, NYC,June 14, 1992
It was a big house production with themes ranging from Egyptian, to Roman, to everything, The Xtravaganzas were setting the tone.
What are the main, or most obvious, differences you saw in your last ball compared to those in the 89-92 period?
I didn’t see any balls after that date, I moved to Haiti until the earthquake kicked me out of there.
When working on the book, I spent time hooking up with the different groups related to the ball culture on the Internet. I am summing up what I saw there near the end of my short intro to the book
On Page 152, there is an image titled “Anonymous Harlem.” It looks like a widow in mourning. Where was it, what was going on, what time of the day etc?
It was midday, Anonymous is leaving her apartment in Harlem and we are on our way to her mother’s burial in the Bronx. All her West Indian family, very straight, very religious, have gathered at the cemetery. I truly admired and still admire Anonymous for showing up there in this operatic widow outfit, on the arm of her boyfriend.
Do you have any plans to show some of the other images, perhaps in a companion book or online?
Yes, it would be probably worth it to bring further. I am also thinking an exhibit/event/book selling in New York…as soon as I can.
Main Photo: “Anonymous Harlem” Photo Credit: Chantal Regnault