Like so many queer folks raised in conservative towns, Tanner Abel was lured to New York in hopes of experiencing firsthand the LGBTQ liberation this city has fostered across decades. The rising photographer, who's currently working towards his BFA at Parsons, studied the glorified Studio 54 era and tumultuous club kid height, using this research to capture today's queer community through a timeless, informed lens.
Abel's new series Persona, aims to monumentalize LGBTQ nightlife stars, who're often treated as extras in the context of fashion and entertainment. In his studio, these individuals are the main focus, and they're presented in ways that both celebrate and dramatize their personalities. He's recruited Drag Race sensations Aja and Aquaria, as well as costume designer Hana Quist; NYC nightlife fixations Linux and Kyle Farmery, and Brooklyn's rising queen West Dakota also get Abel's stylized treatment.
PAPER caught up with Abel to break down Persona, and the importance of making visible queer art in 2018.