The Fahey/Klein Gallery will be presenting the first exhibition from photographer Tom Bianchi’s newly released publication, Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983 (Damiani, 2013). Bianchi’s Polaroid images document the people, parties, and shared moments that defined Fire Island summers during those years, providing an intimate look at the Pines, a small close-knit gay beach community fifty-seven miles from New York City. The beautiful austere barrier island became a haven for the emerging gay community. As Tom Bianchi describes, it was “built by those people who imagined a different world and set out to create it. We carved out the tiniest little place just for ourselves, where we could be safe and laugh and play with one another on the beach, and not have any negative judgment surrounding us.” (Tom Bianchi Interview, Vice Magazine, June 2013)
Partly due to its close proximity to a culturally booming New York City, Fire Island attracted “the best and the brightest” of the gay community- artists, writers, models, photographers, designers, and actors came to the Pines each summer. The island became known not only as a safe summer enclave for gay men, but an exuberant and celebratory one. The summers Bianchi documented were a golden age, and remain the last fleeting moments before the AIDS crisis laid waste to an entire generation of men. The dream-like Polaroid images of dizzying parties and sculpted bodies can initially seem superficial; however the real people in these images dancing, kissing, holding hands, and playing in the sun are friends, lovers, and men creating a community where for the first time, they were free to love.
Tom Bianchi began photographing on Fire Island with a Polaroid SX-70 camera which proved to be the perfect tool- unassuming and immediate. Many of his friends and subjects, who were still closeted and extremely wary of having their picture taken, felt comfortable in front of both Bianchi and his camera. “At first, I shot subjects without identity to ensure anonymity for those who needed it, focusing on atmosphere. As time passed, friends became comfortable with the smiles on their faces being recorded. I quickly saw that I had the makings of a book. People saw what I was doing and came to welcome me, camera in hand.” (Tom Bianchi, Introduction to Fire Island Pines) Bianchi’s Polaroids exist now as precious relics from another time. The Polaroids have softly bent corners and subtle signs of wear, reminders that these photographs have the unique ability of being born in the same moment they documented. The friends and lovers in these pictures held the actual objects in their hands as they created the moments the images capture.
The sense of joy is so palpable in the scenes from the Pines that it is even more devastating to comprehend how violently this time came to an end. Bianchi describes AIDS as a holocaust that devastated a generation, a horror that forced these men to change the very way they saw themselves. In the context of the devastation and the discrimination that followed, Tom Bianchi’s heroic role in preserving this time has provided a vital layer of cultural and social history. The love and camaraderie captured on Fire Island during those summers is a record of the life and vitality lost to AIDS, and a reminder in the years that followed of what needed to be regained.
Tom Bianchi was born and raised in Chicago, graduating from Northwestern University of Law in 1970. While working as a corporate attorney in New York, Bianchi began visiting Fire Island every summer, photographing, painting, and drawing on the weekends. After Bianchi’s partner died of AIDS in 1988, Tom turned his focus towards photography, publishing Out of the Studio, a candid portrayal of gay intimacy. Tom went on to publish numerous successful monographs. In 1993, Tom co-founded a biotech company to develop new H.I.V./AIDS treatments. Tom Bianchi’s work has been exhibited and collected internationally. Tom Bianchi now lives and works with his husband Ben, in Palm Springs, California.
By Jim McKinniss
I first met Claire Mallett at a book exposition at Duncan Miller Gallery in Santa Monica, CA and I was pleased to see her photos again the the reception for the Verge photographers three weeks ago at the Duncan Miller gallery on Venice Blvd. Her photos remind me of the work of Ellen von Unwerth.
Claire was born in the UK and she moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago. She studied Photojournalism and Film studies at University in Bristol, England where she received a bachelor’s degree. Claire has been focused on Fine Art projects for the past 5 years and she works with both digital and film formats.
The photographs that Claire showed at the Verge exhibition are from her “Shameless” project. I asked Claire to tell me something about these photographs.
Shameless is a collection of photographs that pay homage to a golden time of movie making in Hollywood known as “Pre-code”. From the advent of talkies until July of 1934 when a strict list of rules came into effect that restricted ‘immoral’ behavior and attitudes in characters portrayed in film.
During the pre-code era females in particular were portrayed in a magnificent manner. They were strong, independent, freethinking women. They took no prisoners and had no holds barred. They ran companies, threw out cheating husbands and sometimes just behaved badly with no apologies. Given that this was the 1930’s and the 19th amendment allowing women to vote was passed a mere 10 years earlier, in 1920, I find these actresses choices incredibly bold and brave. Also considering that, these days, feminism is considered a dirty word, I look to these movie stars for inspiration and strength. When I photograph women naked or semi-nude it is a process of self-empowerment for my models. Today women’s self-image is constantly under attack from heavily distorted imagery in magazines and the media. And so I look to imagery and attitudes of the past to allow ladies feel good about themselves again.
By Jim McKinniss
As you know, I’ve been highlighting members of the Los Angeles, CA based group of photographers known as The Verge Collective.
Today I want to introduce you to member Susan Swihart. Susan grew up in Newton, Massachusetts which is about 7 miles from Boston. She studied visual and media design at Northeastern University in Boston. There she also took some photography classes.
When Susan was 19 she spent the summer in Italy painting and making photographs. She says that this is where she fell in love with photography. After Italy and college she made a career in advertising. She became serious about her photography about 3 years ago.
Susan has photos from her project called “About Face” at the Duncan Miller Gallery on Venice Blvd. in Los Angeles. That is where I met her. Here is what Susan says about this project.
Sometimes two people start as one. They split apart, but continue to grow in parallel day by day, inch by inch. They develop separately and distinctly. They have different dreams and fears. Yet, to many, they will always look the same. Be interchangeable. Be treated as if they’re still one.
As the mother of twin daughters, I have been observing the phenomenon of their connectedness since birth. As a photographer and participant observer in their lives, I have set out to explore the psychological components, the similarities and differences, of my daughter’s union. Their realization that they are seen as one causes many different emotions. At times, they too will see themselves as a unit, but they will also wrestle with finding their own voice, identity and place. They pull, push and compete. Occasionally one pushes ahead and grows faster than the other. One is left behind, until it’s their turn to squeeze by. Most other times they cling to the comfort of one another. The comfort in same face confusion. An ally to hide with from the fame of their twinness.
It is a complex, but pure love for the person that was created at the same time. Head to toe in the womb. Side by side in life. And I want to be their witness and chronicle their unique journey into the world of individuals.
By Jim McKinniss
I’ve known Sarah Hadley casually for many months because we have attended the same artist receptions at galleries in Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA and at other galleries in the Los Angeles area. Sarah is one of the Verge photographers who had photographs at their opening reception on May 10, 2014 at the Duncan Miller Gallery on Venice Blvd in Los Angeles.
Sarah grew up in Boston in a very unusual place. Her father was the Director of the Gardner Museum in Boston and her family lived on the fourth floor above the museum in the apartment Mrs. Gardner’s had built for herself. She says it was pretty amazing to grow up in a replica of a Venetian palace with Titian, Rembrandt and Sargeant paintings downstairs. Sarah says it has definitely had a big influence on her life.
Sarah was a bit of a nomad after college finally settling in Chicago, where she lived for about 15 years. Five years ago she moved to L.A..
Sarah told me that she got a camera in 4th grade and started making photos right after that. She originally studied art history in college, but went back and got a second degree in photography from the Corcoran College of Art at the age of 25.
Here is what Sarah has to say about her work:
I think every photographer talks about the magic of seeing that first image appear in a tray of developer and of being hooked for life. I believe a good photograph asks more questions than it answers, and my photography is a way for me to constantly challenge myself to really look at the world around me. There is something intangible about the best photographs, something that reminds us of the moment between wake and sleep, and of the beauty that we see and feel but cannot describe, and of our own mortality. These are the kinds of images I try to make.
My current work revolves around the feeling of longing. I love to travel but want to be everywhere at once, even at home. I yearn for the past, yet love daydreaming about the future. I work in sepia and often blur the edges, both as a nod to antique photographs and as a way to draw more depth and feeling out of a black and white image. I want the places to seem dream-like and otherworldly, as if the place is both familiar and unknown. I used to be a street photographer, but at the moment I am drawn to the expanse of the ocean and the vastness of the landscape.
By Jim McKinniss
Jamie Johnson is one of the seven members of the Verge Collective which was formed through of the Duncan Miller Projects. As I wrote in the last posting there are six women and one man in the Verge Collective.
Jamie grew up in New York and attended NYU before moving to Los Angeles. She is a self-taught photographer who enjoys experimenting with different cameras and processes. She is part of a growing number of photographers who have started using old photographic methods, typically called alternative processes. One of the processes she uses is the early process called wet plate collodion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion_process
Jamie was recently featured in The Huffington Post:
By Jim McKinniss
I recently attended a photo exhibition by the Verge Collective at the Duncan Miller Gallery on Venice Blvd. in Los Angeles. Verge is a group of six young women photographers and, curiously, one male photographer. The photographers are Tami Bahat, Sarah Hadley Susan Swihart, Jamie Johnson, Marjorie Salvaterra, Claire Mallet and Rico Mandel.
All of the photographers in The Verge Collective are very talented and bring fresh and creative ideas to their work. Five of the women presented work that is very contemporary in both style and subject. The subjects of Sarah Hadley’s work are more traditional and that is reinforced by the fact that she prefers sepia tones. Rico Mandel’s work is black and white and focuses on the rhythms inherent in musical performances using a stringed instrument.
I will be showing some work from the Duncan Miller exhibition for each photographer over the next several weeks. Today I want to introduce you to Tami Bahat.
Tami was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to Los Angeles when she was two years old. She began making photos when she was a teenager. She is self-taught meaning that she has no formal training but has taken various photo workshops. Tami told me that she started seriously focusing on fine art photography about five years ago.
My portraits are based on a deep love for people. I have had an immense fascination with them from the day I was born. I love the depth and complexity that resides in each and every one of us. My passion is to give my subjects the opportunity to reveal an inner piece of themselves, one that they may not normally feel comfortable enough to show. I love watching people transform into extraordinary art right in front of my eyes.
By Jim McKinniss
dnj Gallery announced its next upcoming exhibition with Harvard-Westlake photography students. They present a show entitled “What Remains” which will run from June 7 through June 21, 2014. The students explore a multitude of directions in their digital and
An opening reception for this exhibition will be held at dnj Gallery on June
7 from 6 – 8 pm.
dnj Gallery is located at Bergamot Station 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404
SHOW DATES: June 7 – June 21, 2014
RECEPTION: Saturday, June 7, 6 – 8 pm
GALLERY HOURS: Tues – Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
For additional information or images, please contact dnj Gallery at (310) 315-3551 or
By Jim McKinniss
Photographs in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum not on display in the Center for Photographs are available for viewing in the Photographs Study Room, which is open by prior appointment to researchers, students, and the interested public.
About the Photographs Collection
An important aspect of the activity of the Getty Museum is the loan of works of art for display at other museums. Consequently, the photographs you wish to view may not be available. It is necessary, therefore, that you call to discuss your area of interest with a staff member before making an appointment. To investigate the nature of our holdings, browse photographs from the collection online or consult the books The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection andPhotographers of Genius at the Getty.
Download a list of all makers whose work is represented in the collection (PDF, 13 pp., 219 KB)
To Make an Appointment
By Jim McKinniss
Duncan Miller Gallery is presenting the first Los Angeles exhibition of the works of Russian photographer and artist Katerina Belkina. Selected works from her series Empty Spaces and Not a Man’s World will be shown.
In Empty Spaces, Belkina uses self-portraiture to express the image of a new woman in a postmodern world. She creates herself as a distant character occupying different roles that represent a mysterious, alluring, yet disquieting relationship between herself and a created metropolis.
Her series Not A Man’s World retains her use of self-portraits, placing herself as a new type of heroine within age-old stories and fairy tales that are familiar, moving and deeply mysterious.
The gallery has not published exhibition dates.
Saturday, May 3, 7-9 pm, opening reception
By Jim McKinniss