Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

By Matthew Breen

Originally published on June 17 2014 1:00 PM ET

Above: Hustlers, Selma Avenue, Hollywood, 1971

Anthony Friedkin's photographs take us back in time to the gay communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1969 to 1973.

In a series of more than 75 vintage prints, Friedkin's "The Gay Essay" transports viewers into these tumultuous years — a turning point in the history of LGBT political activism.

A native of Los Angeles, Friedkin has been taking pictures in his home state of California since he was 8 years old. Then in the spring of 1969, when he was 19, he started "The Gay Essay" with the hope of recording gay life and its increasing visibility. His work was a combination of reporting and individual discovery, with Friedkin developing close relationships with the people he shot. They were trying to live openly, express their individuality and sexuality on their own terms, and improvise ways to challenge the mainstream.

“More than four decades after this work was created, 'The Gay Essay' stands as both a record of historic change in our culture and an eloquent testimony to Anthony Friedkin’s passion for the art of photography,” says Julian Cox, curator of the exhibition at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “We are left with a beautiful, sensitive record fit for the ages.”

The de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
This exhibition will be on view from June 14 through January 11.

Click through for more images from the upcoming exhibit >>>
Gay Liberation Parade, Hollywood, 1972
Michelle Backstage, “C’est La Vie” Club, North Hollywood, 1972


Couple, Los Angeles, 1970


Jim, East Los Angeles, 1972
The Reverend Troy Perry, Gay Activist, in His Burnt Down Church, Los Angeles, 1973


Don Kilhefner and Morris Kight at the Gay Community Services Center, Los Angeles, 1972

Young Hustlers, Selma Avenue, Hollywood, 1971
Pristine Condition, The Palace Theater, San Francisco, 1972

Drag Queen, Long Beach, 1971


Jean Harlow, Drag Queen Ball, Long Beach, 1971Jim and Valerie, Trouper's Hall, Hollywood, 1970


May Doll, Gay Liberation Parade, Hollywood, 1972

Couple in Front of Church, Los Angeles, 1970


Couple in Front of Church, Los Angeles, 1970

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