Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Robert, East Los Angeles, 1972

For more than forty years, American photographer Anthony Friedkin (born 1949), creating full-frame black-and-white images, has documented people, cities, and landscapes primarily in his home state of California. During the culturally tumultuous years of 1969 and 1970, Friedkin made a series of photographs that together offer an eloquent and expressive visual chronicle of the gay communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco at the time. This is the first book to explore the series, titled The Gay Essay, in depth, within the broader historical context that gave rise to it.

1969 witnessed the Stonewall riots in New York City and was a turning point in the history of community building and organized political activism among homosexuals in the United States. The Gay Essay provides a singular, intimate record of this crucial moment. Friedkin’s portraits, taken in streets, hotels, bars and dancehalls, demonstrate a sensitivity and an understanding that has imbued the photographs with an enduring resonance.

The Gay Essay was first exhibited in its entirety at the de Young Museum in San Francisco and published as a book by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Yale University Press in 2014. Anthony Friedkin’s work is in the permanent collections of the J. Paul Getty Musuem, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 Backstage, The Palace Theater, San Francisco, 1972. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Pristine Condition, from “Mask of the Red Death,” Palace Theater, San Francisco © Anthony Friedkin.

Couple in Front of Church, Los Angeles, 1970. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Kelly, Silverlake, 1972. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Hustler in Drag, Hollywood, 1971 © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Jean Harlow, Drag Queen Ball, Long Beach, 1971. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

The Reverend Troy Perry, Gay Activist, In His Burnt Down Church, Los Angeles, 1973. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Brandy, Los Angeles, 1970. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Divine, The Palace Theater, San Francisco, 1972. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Couple, Los Angeles, 1970. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Drag Queen, Long Beach, 1971. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Putting on Makeup, C’est La Vie Club, North Hollywood, 1972. © Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay

Michelle Backstage, “C’est La Vie” Club, North Hollywood, 1972 © Anthony Friedkin.

Hustlers, Selma Avenue, Hollywood, 1971 © Anthony Friedkin.

Gay Liberation Parade, Hollywood, 1972 © Anthony Friedkin.

Vice Police Harassing Gays, Hollywood, 1970 © Anthony Friedkin.

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