Queer New York nightlife’s most prolific and trusted event photographer, GLAM nominee Jeff Eason has seen it all… and thanks to his quick draw with a camera, so have we!
Thotyssey: Hello Jeff, thanks for being my first On Point of 2022! How was your New Years weekend?
Jeff Eason: Hello and Happy New Year! I just got back from visiting family for Christmas. For New Year’s Eve, I worked for Voss Events at Hudson Yards. It was a fabulous night starting with dinner and a jazz band, moving on to a holiday-themed variety show starring the legendary Shequida. Then there were drinks and dancing leading up to the countdown to midnight, ending with a show and DJ set by RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Aquaria. So needless to say, it was a fun night.
That does sound fun! I was in the West Village, and it was pretty understated. I guess lots of people are hiding from Omicron… or they have it!
Yeah, it’s unfortunate that we are still dealing with Covid going into 2022. The great thing about NYC is that all venues are requiring proof of vaccination, so that is helpful for the people going out to feel safe.
Absolutely! So when you go out just to be social… is it a struggle to leave your camera at home, lol?
Yeah, I don’t go out without my camera. I learned a long time ago that people expect me to have it at all times, lol! I actually really love photography; I love capturing moments and memories of people and places.
And so many are grateful that you’ve captured as many wonderful moments as you’ve had!
Where are you from originally… and was photography always a part of your life?
I’m from Detroit, Michigan. I’ve always loved photography since I was young. I took my father’s camera to school when I was in third grade, and photographed my friends on the playground. That’s when I realized how cool it was to capture a moment on film, and have a visual memory to share with others.
What ultimately brought you to New York?
I graduated from college with a degree in photography. I wanted to move to a bigger city with more opportunities. I had been to NYC a few times, and everything about it was so exciting. After graduating I paid off my student loans, saved up a few dollars and moved here with my college roommate.
And how did you begin as a nightlife photographer here?
When I moved here, I contacted the two nightlife magazines [at the time] to inquire about photographing events for them. One of them called me back, and the rest is history. I didn’t have any contacts when I moved here. I thought it would be a temporary gig, where I could meet people and get familiar with the city. I definitely accomplished that goal, LOL!
[All above photos by Jeff Eason]
Can you describe what was going on in nightlife here when you first started shooting it?
There were definitely less venues then, so the events felt bigger. There were fewer performers, so every one of them felt like a celebrity. There were so many crazy, fun parties and bars that are no longer around, that were happening every day of the week. Some of my favorite places to go were Boys Room, The Slide, The Park, B Bar, Hiro, The Hose, Crobar. It’s been nice to see the community grow and become more mainstream over time. Now there are so many more venues for people to enjoy, and new performers are popping up constantly.
One thing that’s always been impressive about you is that you get a perfect shot right away–maybe one or two quick clicks with no fuss… and you’ve got it!
I’ve always tried to be quick about photographing. People are out having a good time, and I’m interrupting them to take a photo. As time has gone on now, everyone has a camera on their phones. People like to have their pictures taken, and don’t mind taking a moment to stand and pose.
This might be impossible to answer, just because of the sheer girth of pics you’ve taken over the years… but have you had any particularly favorite person or event to shoot?
Amanda Lepore! I think it’s pretty easy for anyone who has ever seen Amanda in person to know that she always looks like a million dollars–not a hair out of place. Candis Cayne was always fun to photograph while she was performing; her hair alone could do tricks that I’ve never seen before. The Pines Party and the Black Party were events that I looked forward to every year. There have been so many great performances over the years that were cool to photograph: [concerts and appearances from] Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Cindy Lauper, Deborah Cox, just to name a few.
Would you ever considering publishing a book of your greatest shots?
Yes, that would be a fun project. I have so many images to work with… that would take a lot of editing, lol!
Many of your photos are watermarked “Wilsonmodels,” and the Wilsonmodels site is always the best and easiest place for folks to browse your most recent shots. But what is it, exactly?
Wilsonmodels has been my photo credit for years. People think it is an agency, which it is not–it’s just me. I can see how it is misleading. I guess I didn’t really think that out properly, lol! Wilson is my middle name.
Speaking of your name… Facebook is notorious for making some drag queens use their real names on their accounts, and local queen Princess Bitch’s alter ego happens to be… Jeff Eason! That’s a wild–and for you two, probably annoying–coincidence.
Yeah, that’s pretty crazy. Fortunately Princess is pretty cool, so I don’t mind sharing my name with her!
You also shoot for Get Out Magazine, which is basically the last existing print magazine covering all NYC nightlife. How fun is it to work with editor Mike Todd and company, and to see your shots printed on their pages?
Mike and the magazine are great. It has been an honor to work with him over the years. It’s nice to see how the magazine has changed and evolved as different contributors have left their marks. One thing I’m really excited about is that you have come aboard. You’ve been a fountain of knowledge with your listings on Thotyssey.
Thank you, I love being there! One annual highlight for you and Get Out is the GLAM Awards cover photoshoot, which usually features a group photoshoot of the prior year’s winners in all their finery.
Yes, the GLAM Awards are definitely a highlight for the nightlife calendar. It’s always nice to see people get recognized for their talents and contributions. The awards are so great to photograph because everyone is looking their best, and the performances are always top notch. I have been lucky to win the award for Best Nightlife Photographer.
You’ve actually been a frequent nominee and winner! And of course you’re nominated again in 2021, with the awards show set for January 30th. Where do you keep all your trophies?
Above my computer, to remind me that my one true passion of photography is appreciated here in the best city in the world.
I’ve enjoyed seeing you weekly at The Q for the Lady Liberty competition and other events. What are your thought on The Q? Does it remind you of Venues Past, or is it an entirely new vibe?
The Q is a great venue. I think it is exactly what we needed at this moment in time. The design is so carefully thought out, with it’s distinctly different vibes in each room. I only went to the Limelight a few times, but that is what it reminds me of — including the DJ in the bathroom. The Q has such diverse programing; there is something for everyone.
See you there again soon! So, any closing words for the kids?
I guess I would just ask that everyone go out and support your local nightlife. There are so many great venues, and such wonderful talent to experience.
Well said! Okay, lastly… any New Years resolutions?
With all that has been happening the last few years, I would just say that I want to enjoy my friends and family, my work, and my personal time as much as possible… because you never know what the future has in store for you. Thank you so much for this fun interview, Jim. For you and everyone reading this, have a wonderful new year!
Thank you Jeff, and same!