It would be easy to look at photographer Sean Scheidt's portraits of burlesque performers, first in street clothes and then in costumes, as simple before-and-after transformations.
Instead, "quite a few of the performers use the stage to express a part of them that's always present," Scheidt says. "It always seems that the persona is deeply ingrained."
Short Staxx | (Sean Scheidt)
"Burlesque can, on the surface, seem no different than stripping," Scheidt explains. "While striptease is also used in burlesque, there is a distinction between the two. In burlesque, performers use their bodies as a tool to confront an audience, often using the striptease to challenge sexual objectification, orientation, and other social taboos."
Paco Fish | (Sean Scheidt)
Kiki Allure | (Sean Scheidt)
Ironically, when Scheidt's subjects shed their larger-than-life stage personas, they appeared shy when standing alone for the portraits.
"The stage is a place where they have control, and it's worlds away from being alone with a photographer, in his space, surrounded by a soft box and reflectors, one-on-one," Schedit says.
Ruby Rockafella | (Sean Scheidt)
Marla Meringue | (Sean Scheidt)
As for Scheidt, his own "before/after" moment came when he realized the project had moved beyond showing a juxtaposition between two parts of the same individual.
"I began to learn more about … the 'why,' behind their personal motivations," he says. "I hope this project allows people to delve further into the concept of quick judgment, and consider the individual, as well as the art of performance."
Nona Narcisse | (Sean Scheidt)