exhibition slideshow
TOM BIANCHI: Memories of Fire Island

Tom Bianchi

Limited Edition Archival Prints from SX-70 Polaroids

On View
June 27 - August 15, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009
7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Before gay marriage, before "don't ask-don't tell," before AIDS, and even before Stonewall... there was Fire Island. Part Garden of Eden, part Sodom and Gomorah, this tiny little barrier to Long Island, just south of the Hamptons, was as much a state of mind as it was a destination. Synonymous with freedom to gays around the word, Fire Island was the ultimate mecca where gays and lesbians who often lived their lives in secret, were free to be who they were, among their own, living and playing without judgment or scorn.

Internationally renowned photographer, Tom Bianchi, captured that era on film. Using a Polaroid SX-70, Tom Bianchi, with nine books to his credit, shot more than 6,000 images of his summers in the Pines. The images, captured by a camera that produced results in a few seconds, long before the days of digital exposures, have no special lighting, no darkroom effects and no editing.

The sincerity and integrity of the images are faithfully reproduced as limited edition archival prints each signed and numbered by the artist. Over 24 images from Memories of Fire Island will be on view at PHDGallery from June 27 through August 15, 2009, with an opening reception Saturday, June 27 at 7:00 pm. Also on view will be a selection of Bianchi'e classic black and white nudes. The artist will attend and will sign copies of his books.

Lawyer, artist, motivational speaker, and world famous photographer, Tom Bianchi is one of the most published artists of our time. Beginning with a simple gallery showing of male nudes in 1978, Tom's body of work consists of many sculptures, 12 photography books including the landmark Out of the Studio, and three documentary films.

While a young lawyer at Columbia Pictures in New York in 1976, Tom's president gave him a Polaroid XS 70 camera at an executive conference. The first place he took this new toy was to his home in the Pines. One late summer afternoon, he was taking photos of seashells on the beach when an attractive man approached him with a better idea. That day Tom Bianchi made his first male nudes.

Over the next several summers, Tom chronicled life in the Pines every weekend. "In those days, we explained our tans to our New York bosses with vague references to weekends on Long Island." Tom explains. "Photographs that placed us in the notorious Pines were potentially dangerous to our careers. Therefore, I had to keep my friends anonymous in the photos for the most part. But I tried to make the images suggestive of the invisible life I loved in that gay paradise."

After taking many thousands of these pictures, the Polaroid Corporation notified him that he was the second largest purchaser of XS 70 film in the world. IBM was first. They were curious about what he was up to. "When I took the agent who dealt with artist use of the camera to lunch at the Museum of Modern Art and showed her the book of photos I'd designed, Polaroid gifted me with one thousand shots," he recalls.

Tom recalls the Pines in the '70s as a magical and glamorous creation of New York gay culture. Celebrities from the fields of fashion, dance, art, literature, interior design, theater, film and music partied through weekend days and nights, often high on consciousness and disco music. The most beautiful male models from GQ magazine walked the beaches and hit the pool parties. David Hockney was a regular, David Geffin and Calvin Klein had homes on the beach, and it was often reported that Richard Gere and his girlfriend were guests of Canada's premier architect, Arthur Ericson. "His house was so grand we nicknamed it Lincoln Center," Tom recalls with a smile. "The piano on which Jerry Herman composed 'Hello Dolly' could be seen in his living room suspended over the dunes above the cedar board walk called Ocean Boulevard."

There were people from all over America who found their way to this mythic place to experience its "fabulousness," free from the cares and concerns of a world that did not know or appreciate them. The Pines was the epicenter of a gay revolution that transformed American culture, making the nation a more entertaining and beautiful place. The Pines was a place where men could hold hands on the beach and be the norm. It was a place that nurtured their self-esteem and talents. Tom shares, "It was the spiritual birthplace for many of us. I've often said the man I became was born in the Pines. I'm delighted to recall our exuberant lives in these images."

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