Smiling Contestants and 250 Year-Old Ritual

Baby Beauty Pageant

Joshua Kristal, "Judge"

The Five photos that make up the Baby Beauty Pageant series are all color and tackiness yet they depict a more subtle violence. During my southern sojourn, where I was tracking down sites of historical racial violence for a different project, I happened upon a baby beauty pageant in a small town in Mississippi. After talking my way into the event and roaming for about an hour, I was ejected by officials but not before capturing some compelling moments.

These images depict the kind of crude enforcement of the gender roles that appear marginal and quirky in a small town beauty pageant like this one,

yet as Frank Rich describes in his 1997 essay on our national obsession with Jon Benet Ramsay, beauty pageants like these are big business in the U.S. and the themes and messages about gender and sexuality as acted out by their tiny participants have made their way into the culture writ large. This body of work falls in line with my favorite way to work which is as a observer taking artful, anthropological glances into sub-culture.

Joshua Kristal, "Sunburned Stage Mom With Cowbaby"
“Sunburned Stage Mom With Cowbaby”
Joshua Kristal, "Smiling Contestant"
“Smiling Contestant”
Joshua Kristal, "Mississippi Baby Beauty Pageant"
“Mississippi Baby Beauty Pageant”
Joshua Kristal, "Catwalk"


st-patties 2013 1
“St. Patrick’s Day 2013”

It came and went again but this year it was graced with blustery winds, beautiful snow and freezing temps. The side streets around the 252 year-old parade are packed with staged parade participants waiting, sometimes hours, for their turn to enter so its a perfect place to meander and photograph. Back on 2nd Ave., thousands of drunk non-Irish revelers brought their ribald and voracious enthusiasm for binge drinking, everything green and foam hats to the borough.


For the technically interested, this all was shot on a Mamiya 6 on 120 Fuji film that expired in 2004, hence its slightly weird hues and density.
Limited edition prints available for purchase.