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The Queen

27 April 2022

Commercial photographer Sacha Stejko heads into the studio with drag queen royalty to create an energetic portrait fit for a queen

Pictured here is Kita Mean, a local drag queen legend and recent winner of the inaugural season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. The portrait was created by Auckland photographer Sacha Stejko as a personal project, a chance to get into the studio and challenge herself with new work.

“I wanted to create a piece of work that felt bold and bright. I was inspired by drag queens and their incredible commitment to the craft. I was fascinated by every element that has to come together to bring this character to life.”

With Kita coming in top of the high-profile Trans-Tasman drag competition, Sacha’s vibrant close-up portrait serves as a stunning victory lap.

CANON R5, 70MM, 1/125S, F/13, ISO 160

The subject

Anyone who has seen Kita in action knows she is a force to reckon with, and the same is true of Sacha behind the camera. It is unsurprising their synergy works so well, as Sacha explains this isn’t their first rodeo together. 

“Kita is amazing. I had the pleasure of working with her before and knew that she would deliver something fabulous beyond my wildest dreams,” says the photographer. 

When there’s already a creative connection between photographer and subject, there emerges an element of trust and comfort that can allow for exploration. On this shoot, there wasn’t such a need to create a tightly scripted brief beforehand. 

“I sent Kita my idea, that I wanted to create a portrait that would pop, and that I was shooting on a bright background. There wasn’t much more than that — I knew the creative energy would be like lightning when we got into the studio together.”

The lighting

Sometimes you find a piece of kit that really just sings for you. For Sacha, the Broncolor Para 88 parabolic reflector is her current pick.

“I am obsessed with the Para 88 when it comes to that pop of lighting. It’s a modifier that is very high in contrast but is beautiful on the skin. And in this case, it just helps bring the vibrance of the image together. 

“I position the modifier quite close so the light just floods in and wraps itself around all the textures.”

CANON R5, 145MM, 1/125S, F/14, ISO 160


As a commercial photographer, Sacha is more than confident to employ post-processing when an image calls for it. This one, however, required very little in the way of touching up.

“This image looked pretty wonderful straight out of the camera, I try to achieve the result as much as I can in camera.” 

What you see here is the result of a well-executed shoot, benefiting from the slightest of tidy-ups and subtle level adjustments. 

The effect

Kita is an attention-grabber without any help, but Sacha’s portrait breezily emphasises the bright, bold, joyous nature of her subject.

“I really wanted to make this image feel out of this world. I wanted the character of Kita to shine and to see her in all her glory,” the photographer explains. “The image feels like a celebration. I really love creating dramatic images like this and letting the subject shine through.”

The result is a lively testament to the power of collaboration. Hail to both queens.


See more of Sacha’s personal and commercial work at