It’s a blast, “The Invasion” that happens every July 4 on Fire Island in The Pines, and I love photographing it. The event is a daylong boozy drag costume party attended by thousands, fueled by tropical drinks. Given the wealth of visual information in the air, selecting my subjects can be a challenge. In their ball gowns and costumes, many as flamboyant as Rio’s famed Carnival, Mardi Gras, or Las Vegas showgirls, “the ladies,” mostly men in drag, are encouraged to vamp for the crowds. At least everyone who dresses wants to be photographed, and no one makes a fuss, or questions why I’m taking their picture. “Mother” showed up, full of attitude. There were men with chest hairs sprouting out under the biggest breasts you can imagine, and wigs even bigger. The eyelashes on some were enviable, though not exactly in sync with the beards! What can I say? Anything goes and no one cares, and taking it one step further – outrageousness is actively encouraged. One person was wearing a banner declaring her to be “The Most Glamorous” in her stars and stripes, and she was pretty good looking at that. “The Invasion” is always fun, witty and wacky, and it’s a day primarily for men, to flirt and dress however they feel, sometimes looking completely ridiculous. But who cares? Caricatures abound, and on Independence Day it’s about freedom – to be anyone and any way, with no concern about being “normal”. The performers and throngs of well-wishers dance and drink at outdoor discos from sunrise to sundown and beyond. By the end of the day, even if a bit disheveled, a walk on the beach in the cool ocean breeze is welcome.
— Barbara Alper