Polaroids: Tom Bianchi's Fire Island

Bianchi's images of gay men on Fire Island from the '70s evoke a blissful, hedonistic era.

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 16 2013 5:00 AM ET

Growing up in the 1950s, Tom Bianchi would head into downtown Chicago and pick up 25-cent "physique" magazines at newsstands. In one such magazine, he found a photograph of bodybuilder Glenn Bishop on Fire Island.

"Fire Island sounded exotic, perhaps a name made up by the photographer," he recalls in the preface to his latest monograph. "I had no idea it was a real place. Certainly, I had no idea then that it was a place I would one day call home."

In 1970, fresh out of law school, Bianchi began traveling to New York and was invited to spend a weekend at Fire Island Pines, where he encountered a community of gay men. Using an SX-70 Polaroid camera, Bianchi documented his friends' lives in the Pines, amassing an image archive of people, parties, and private moments. These images, published here for the first time, and accompanied by Bianchi's moving memoir of the era, recording the birth and development of a new culture. Soaked in sun, sex, camaraderie, and reverie, Fire Island Pines conjures a magical bygone age.

After Bianchi's partner died of AIDS in 1988, he turned his focus to photography, producing Out of the Studio, a candid portrayal of gay intimacy. Its success led to the production of numerous monographs, including On the Couch, Deep Sex, and In Defense of Beauty.  

On Saturday at 5 p.m., Tom Bianchi will sign copies of Fire Island Pines Polaroids, 1975-1983 at Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 61944).

Click through for more of Bianchi's images >>>

 

Tags: Photography

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