Photography happened upon Tom Bianchi in a kismet way. In the 1970s Bianchi was a lawyer for Columbia Pictures. He was gifted the Polaroid SX-70 camera at a conference. The camera was a big hit at his beach home in Fire Island. Long before digital cameras and phones, Polaroid monopolized the gratification of instant imagery. The development process also afforded privacy - a factor of importance for some of the inhabitants of Fire Island. More than just sandy beaches and lithe reeds of grass flanked by tall pines and elegantly unassuming architecture, Fire Island was a retreat to gay acceptance. It was a community, for those whom could afford it (or lucky enough to be invited), where one could truly be theselves. Fortunately, Tom Bianchi was there, recording intimate vignettes of unfettered expression on his free Polaroid camera. And the results are a stunning.
Fahey / Klein will present the first exhibition of Bianchi's work since the release of his book Fire Island Pines Polaroids: 1975 -1983. The exhibition is filled with sensually charged adonic males: some frolicking oceanside in multi-colored speedos others languid and nude. The seductive blend of leisure and bodies may distract viewers from noticing that there are very few clear faces. There is no gaze. The photographs become less about personal identity, a freedom still not afforded beyond the island, but documenting that which was allowed - sexual expression and the environment that made said expression possible. Bianchi's images are abstracted landscapes of gay lifestyle and gay culture.
"In the 1950’s, I discovered small twenty-five cent physique magazines at a newsstand in front of the Chicago Public Library. In one, I found a picture of Glenn Bishop at Fire Island that instantly welded an image of an ideal male physique to a remote other worldly beach. Fire Island sounded exotic, perhaps a made up name. 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. Ultimately I came to see Fire Island as more than a place. In the Pines, I found a force that gave birth to and nurtured my gay soul—as it had for so many. I grew up attracted to males in a hostile world that rejected men like me as queers. Survival required me to imagine the world otherwise. I dreamed there might be a place where boys like me could play in the sun, walk on a beach holding hands, and even fall in love. Dear God, if there could only be such a place. At first, I shot subjects without identity to ensure anonymity for those who needed it, focusing on atmosphere. As time passed, friends became comfortable with the smiles on their faces being recorded."
-Tom Bianchi Excerpt from Preface to “Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975 – 1983”
Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983
June 12, 2014 through July 19, 2014
Reception for the Artist: Thursday, June 12, 7 - 9 p.m.