Maria Meco Sanchez’s photograph celebrates London’s hidden drag king scene and those working to diversify it
Maria Meco Sanchez originally photographed London’s Kings of Colour drag troupe as part of a commission. The aim of the images was to highlight the role of black drag kings and other performers in the London drag scene, which is a predominantly white space.
“The photograph I entered into Portrait of Britain was of a gender-fluid performer named Coco,” Meco Sanchez explains of her subject. “They were very confident in front of the camera, which made the process easy and fun.”
Meco Sanchez cites her photographic style as intuitive; she works without following specific rules, leaning towards spontaneity, although she admits that this can sometimes feel slightly chaotic.“I’m really bad at directing people,” she says, “so I try not to take too much control – I don’t want to strip away their persona”.
Hailing from Spain, Meco Sanchez is now based in Bristol, where she is studying photography at the University of West England. Her work shifts between documentary, fine art and portrait photography, and her interests lie in people and emotion. “My work has to be emotive,” she explains. “And the work that strikes me the most is always filled with feelings that I can’t quite explain or understand.”
Meco Sanchez’s work with London’s drag king community was her first foray into this subculture, a scene that didn’t exist, as far as she knew, in Spain. Kings of Colour was set up by drag king Zayn Phallic in order to address the lack of diversity on the UK drag king scene. It’s aim is to celebrate and nourish performers of colour, by not only showcasing their talent, but also by providing mentorship and support to new kings of colour who are keen to take the stage.
The troupe performs across the UK, with shows encompassing renditions from Dreamgirls, alongside performance activism and spoken word. The portrait of Coco, which Meco Sanchez chose to enter into Portrait of Britain 2019, depictsthem in the dimly lit basement that became the backstage area for a London show. Embracing the camera with unabashed confidence, Coco dons nipple tassels and facial hair, which are some of the trademarks they have become known for during their time on the drag king circuit. “The people you are photographing are not just your subjects,” says Meco Sanchez. “Join them and immerse yourself in the experience you are photographing.”