Digital Transgender Archive

Capturing Images of Queer Culture

Drag queen performingThe Rex Maniscalco Collection of Bobby Smith Photographs features photographs of the Tampa, Florida, gay community taken by Bobby Smith, with occasional contributions from Rex Maniscalco and Donald Bentz. Although most of the images are undated, the few dated images suggest that the photographs are primarily from the 1950s. Most of the photographs were taken in bars and performance spaces, though some were taken in personal homes. The subjects in the photographs wear clothing ensembles that range from goofy to elegant. Some of the photos exhibit professional sensibilities, while others capture candid moments. Together, the photographs provide a far-reaching glimpse into the activities of the Tampa LGBTQIA community in the 1950s.

Originating from a time when queer culture was often hidden and secret, photographic evidence of even everyday occurrences possess incredible value. This photo of the triumphant winner of the 1951 Knotty Pine Bar Best Drag competition exemplifies the vibrant community hidden from much of mainstream mid-century American society. The crowd members seated behind the drag queen in the image look happy and relaxed in what looks like a party atmosphere. This image, along with the rest of the collection, shows a celebration of queer culture and joy in the blurring of the gender binary.