Credit: Todd Diederich

How he got those pix

Todd Diederich is an avid basketball fan. In early 2009, he typed “chicago ball” into the search box on YouTube. What he found wasn’t hoops. It was a series of videos showing a room filled with black men in drag. “I knew this was something that I needed to photograph,” says Diederich, 28.

For six months he couldn’t find a trace of the community captured in the video. But then he got word of an upcoming ball through a Yahoo ballroom group. “When I got there it took forever to get in,” he says. “I could hear the music banging through the walls, but I didn’t see any cars and I didn’t see people around. I felt so close, but so far.”

Finally Diederich wandered into a side alley where he came across the event’s security. “They said, ‘We don’t know about no white boy coming in with a camera.'” But they let Diederich in anyway. Since then he’s taken thousands of photos of the Chicago ballroom community, earning the ball scene nickname “Peter Parker,” a la the shutterbug main character in Spider-Man.