Kravitz, Susan. “Mascara, Mirth and Mayhem: Independence Day on Fire Island”, KMW Studio, 2016.
Freedom to Be
“Mascara, Mirth & Mayhem: Independence Day on Fire Island” is a celebration human rights and freedom of expression. It is a collection of photographs taken by renowned photographer Susan Kravitz over the past thirty years at the annual LGBT event that is known as the Invasion of the Pines that is held every July 4th and involves participants from the Fire Island communities of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines. This began in 1976, when a member of the Cherry Grove community had been denied service in a Pines’ restaurant because he had been dressed in drag. As a protest, a small group of Cherry Grove residents cross-dressed and took a water taxi to the Pines on Independence Day of that year, to stand up against this insult” by “invading” their neighboring community. Forty years later, the Invasion has evolved into quite a uniquely raucous event and brings thousands of people, straight and gay to celebrate.
Kravitz’s photographs capture the rebelliousness, the high camp, and the joy of the Invasion. They are provocative, introspective, sad and funny, and contain discreet (or not so discreet) sexual innuendo. They also reflect another journey, one that says something about the LGBT movement itself. From the fearful, AIDS-ridden years of the 1980s and 1990s, to the present when LGBT people are out and proud, the photographs celebrate a day to be free, to be whoever one wants to be, and to be gay. Kravitz says, “My photographs are as much about the times in which they were taken as they are about the people who populate them. Ultimately, they are about human rights and freedom of expression seen through the lens of the Invasion,” There are eighty-eight color and black and white photographs in the book.
The Invasion was originally planned as a way to shock the neighbors and to protest their attitudes and snobbery. The invasion on every July 4th, is a moment on Fire Island equal to what happened at Stonewall in Greenwich Village. It has grown in size and extravagance each year to become a huge event of creative cross-dressing and a true independence. Along with the photographs of the original invasion, we get history and selected interviews of participants, then and now.