“Fire Island and the Pines” by Tom Bianchi and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz— Fire Island and the Pines

bianchi

Bianchi, Tom (photographer) and Cay Sophie Rabinowitz (editor). “Fire Island Pines:Polaroids 1975-1983”, Damiani, 2013.

Fire Island and the Pines

Amos Lassen

If you are not yet a fan of Tom Bianchi, one of the most published photographers in the world, now is the time to start. He has already published 19 books of photographs, poetry and essays and most of them are about gay male life. Whether he works in the area of aesthetic philosophy or poetry, there is something there that defines his work as Bianchi. He was one of the people responsible for opening the door to an honest look at how gay men live and love and in doing so, people gained a greater understanding of who we are. There are very places in the world of gay artistry that you will not find the name of Tom Bianchi and his work has gained him the respect as one of the most important artists dealing with the male form and erotic imagery.

As a young man growing up in Chicago, Bianchi would buy those cheap physique magazines that were printed back then. We really had nothing else. In one of the magazines, he came across the name of Glenn Bishop with photographs of Fire Island. Bianchi had never heard of Fire Island before and to him it sounded exotic. He had no idea that there was really a place known as Fire Island and he certainly never thought that one day it would be his home. He went to New York in 1970, right after he graduated from law school and was invited to spend a weekend on Fire Island. This changed his life forever. Fire Island has the ability to do just that as anyone who has ever been there can tell you.

While there, Bianchi met a community of gay men and with a SX-70 Polaroid camera, he documented those he met at Fire Island and the Pines and he was able to build an archive of “ people, parties and private moments”. Now, and for the first time, he share those photos with us. He also gives us his own written memoir of the period which was actually the birth of a new culture that was tanned by the sun, bolstered by sex and lived by a group of men who were more than just friends. Fire Island and the Pines still stand but that camaraderie has changed. Bianchi gives us documentation of a time that was and he does so with the great style that he is known for. This is, actually, a visual lesson in gay history made up of photographs that give a new view to how we lived.

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