My earliest memories of Provincetown are centered around renting a house for a week with friends. It was a bonding time that contributed to forming an authentic queer identity away from the confines of heteronormative society. My biggest impression was made by the people. I learned about queer culture and history from those I met and my surroundings. Returning over the years, I was inspired to document the vast diversity and multifaceted subculture within the LGBTQ+ community in this space. The “Wild West of the East” is a street portrait series celebrating the people of Provincetown, MA. These Big Shot Polaroid portraits are made mostly in public.
Provincetown is transformative space. It’s a small seaside town with a big history. The tradition of acceptance lies deep. It is a found Neverland where the concept of “play” is encouraged. The conscious self is taken away with the tide. This sense of freedom is palpable. It is creative, sexual, and exploratory. Normal Mailer famously called Provincetown the “Wild West of the East” and described Provincetown as “the last democratic town in America where everyone was absolutely equal.”
Famous for its people-watching, Commercial Street serves as a thoroughfare where drag queens bark, parades crawl, leather men strut, and creatively dressed (or barely dressed at all) are in transit. Historically, among those might be writers, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, and artists such Mark Rothko and Franz Kline. Provincetown is criticized as having lost is Bohemian feel or seedy charm. A night out on the town reveals that this is not lost, and it is the people who make Provincetown what it is, not the place itself. A newcomer states “it is a site of connecting to a greater queer history – learning about the wonderful traditions and rituals a community built before me. It’s about a place of exploration of identity, making memories with good friends, and contributing to a place that has allowed me to be more fully alive.”