There’s nothing like a good gay photo. You can hardly turn around in a gallery without bumping into a photo that was either snapped by a queer person or uses one for a subject: from Caitlyn Jenner’s portrait by Annie Leibovitz to the provocative works of Robert Mapplethorpe to the genius of Andy Warhol, Catherine Opie, and Pierre and Gilles. Maybe there’s something queer about the photograph, the transformation from a subject to an object in a flash. Or maybe all our years of taking selfies for Grindr prepared us for the job. In any case, what makes the gay photo gay is the look it levels at the viewer: We are used to being seen, but now we can look back.
In a career spanning over 50 years, Hammer has been best known for daring depictions of lesbian life and sexuality. Her death in March, 2019 makes her show at the Wexner Center for the Arts all the more poignant.