5 East 73rd Street (2011) is a series of photographs by artist Zackary Drucker named for a dilapidated alcove apartment in upper-Manhattan—a crowded, unwieldy space filled with the rich, feverish history of famous drag queen, Mother Flawless Sabrina. Known as Jack to those close to him, he lived in the same apartment for four decades. Over a two-year period, Drucker worked with Jack in his apartment to weave a fluid, parallel text of their intersecting lives. Navigating the real and the unconscious, oscillating between documentary and myth narrative, 5 East 73rd Street is an altogether novel exploration of trans-identity that attempts to subvert traditional documentary and exploitative methods of representation.
Jack hit the drag scene in the late 1950s and quickly became a powerhouse entrepreneur, annually organizing up to 46 drag balls in different parts of the country, including “The Nationals," an end of the year finale held in New York City. The Queen, a 1967 documentary that features Jack as a twenty-something MC and producer, reveals his apartment in its glory days: a bustling hangout where queens, cross-dressers, trannies, and fags mingled and philosophized about their lifestyles and genders, drag, social and familial acceptance or rejection, Vietnam and the draft, among other things. 5 East 73rd Street is a time capsule, a transformer, and it remained a junction for eclectic queers until his death in 2018. Jack positioned herself as the matriarch and mentor of New York’s young queer counter-culture, holding court: a mythical oracular hermaphrodite, a shaman, a Buddha, a contemporary Plato or Socrates generating a new intellectual order with her young protégés.
Drucker's desire “to photographically materialize this individual and site-specific history and also to document the legacy that is being passed down from a lost generation to a newer, more visible one," has become increasingly important in the years since the project was first exhibited. This "project encapsulates both my identification with Jack and an exploration of unknown parts of me; it also considers the trajectory and unexpected life path of trans identified persons. It is about mortality, about the revelation that it is possible to lead a sustainable transgender lifestyle. Jack offers a survival strategy and a window into the bohemian queer culture of the 1960s, a lost generation, wiped out by AIDS and overdoses. It is about aging—the double force of global culture and drag culture, which both privilege youth and sexiness, creating a new beauty standard with the DIY tactics of pre-Stonewall drag performativity and display while simultaneously revolutionizing contemporary drag practice.”
5 East 73rd Street speaks to the fleeting, fluid, ever-changing state of identity. Like memory—flashes of brilliant color set against stretches of unintelligible darkness—5 East 73rd Street uncovers history and presents it alongside depictions of Jack and Drucker, creating a narrative about ways of seeing, identity construction, and cultural celebration. Reinscribing the master narrative, recreating icons and creating new ones, 5 East 73rd Street is a utopic, amorphous, journey of desire where fantasy and culture coincide.