Photography by: Natalie Slamon and Newton Sperring
Words by Harry Potts
Arguably one of Manchester’s most flamboyant characters and one of the LGBT communities most familiar faces, is drag queen and actor Dan Wallace, aka Anna Phylactic – often described as ‘a shock in a frock’.
Born in Darlington, he came Manchester to study drama at MMU and never left. Dan, as his drag persona Anna Phylactic has a reputation as a fierce party socialite, who hosts club nights at Aftershock in Manchester’s gay Village.
Anna’s bold look and lip-syncing skills guaranteed her a place in the finals of a competition to choose the UK ambassador for RuPauls Drag Race in 2015.
Anna’s face is immortalised at the top of the giant 40m mural on the side of the Molly House in the heart of the Gay Village. Her Mad Hatter character looks out above Manchester gay icons from history: Alan Turing, Emmilene Pankhurst, Foo Foo Lammar and Quentin Crisp.
“I love Manchester for a number of different reasons – I think it really is one of the best cities in the world! There’s something about the people. People always say that the North is friendlier and I think there’s a truth in that.”
“It’s a city, but it feels small as well. I think that bleeds into our LGBT community. Manchester has a real mix of communities and a lot love.”
After much deliberation, the students decided to photograph Anna in the college studio. This environment would allow them to control the lighting, select backgrounds and use props.
She immediately struck up a rapport with drag fans Natalie and Newton and was as predicted, confident in front of the camera.
Anna opted for a pirate themed look for the shoot and commented about her dilemma when choosing outfits.
“Looks can take weeks sometimes to put together or sometimes can be very last minute. It’s always a bit heartbreaking when you’ve cobbled something together at the last minute and someone tells you It’s the best thing you have ever done!”
“It was an absolute pleasure to photograph Anna, she is someone I have admired for a long time. When I think of Manchester, I think of music and Gay Pride. I feel honoured to be working with one of the LGBTQ communities most eccentric and passionate queens. In the studio I had the opportunity to work with props, gels and a variety of lighting setups in an attempt to make every photo unique. It was a fantastic experience for me to work with Anna in a professional environment and hope my images are an important addition to the project”. Natalie Slamon
“The work we did with Anna Phylactic is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had during a photoshoot. I first discovered the existence of Anna around three years ago, through Instagram, and found myself fascinated by the faces and imagery she creates. It was later I learnt she is also an incredible performer, if terrifying at times, with a work ethic I will forever admire. Photographing Anna was probably the most productive and creative experience I’ve had in the past year, and I’m grateful for the experience, this project is wonderfully inspired and has created some beautiful photography. I’m proud to have been able to be a part of it.” Newton Sperring
Anna’s words describing her Manchester:
“Love, acceptance, my chosen home.”
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)