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9 Publications that Illuminate Queer Life

Pride was born of protest. What began as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots has grown into a month dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history and culture. Photographs continue to be instrumental in reflecting and shaping representations of LGBTQ communities. This month, Aperture highlights nine photobooks that radically reimagine queer visibility.


Aperture, Issue 218, “Queer”
“Queer doesn’t have a look, a size, a sex,” Vince Aletti writes. “Queer resists boundaries and refuses to be narrowly defines.” Over the past three decades, the public conversation about what it means to be queer has evolved, and remains not only relevant, but also necessary to continue. With work by photographers such as Zanele Muholi, Ren Hang, and Catherine Opie, Aperture’s “Queer” issue is an essential primer on the ways in which images have shaped that conversation.


Ren Hang, Untitled, 2013–14
Courtesy the artist


Zanele Muholi, Zukiswa Gaca, Grand Parade, Cape Town, 2011
Courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York


Hal Fischer, from Gay Semiotics, 1977
© and courtesy Hal Fischer, and Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles


Peter Hujar: Speed of Life
Peter Hujar died of AIDS in 1987, leaving behind a complex and profound body of photographs. Underappreciated during his lifetime, Hujar was a leading figure in the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and ’80s, an inspiration to legendary photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Nan Goldin. Among his subjects are visionaries such as Susan Sontag, William S. Burroughs, and Andy Warhol. “In many ways Peter Hujar defined downtown for me,” wrote photography critic Vince Aletti. “He went places I never dared to, and hung out with people I’d only read about.”


Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2), 1981
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Peter Hujar, Gary in Contortion (1), 1979
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Peter Hujar, Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid, 1981
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs
Mickalene Thomas draws on cultural icons and her relationships with lovers and family alike to subvert the male gaze and assert new definitions of beauty. Thomas, who spent several years estranged from her mother before telling her she was a lesbian, has said of their collaboration, “Using my mother as a model has allowed us time to establish this nice relationship, for me to get to know her,” she said. “I feel it’s a way of making her happy.” Muse gathers together her various approaches to photography in a courageous exploration of gender and sexuality.


Mickalene Thomas, Remember Me, 2006
© the artist


Mickalene Thomas, A Moment’s Pleasure #2, 2007
© the artist


Mickalene Thomas, I’ve Been Good to Me, 2011
© the artist


George Dureau: The Photographs
Born in New Orleans in 1930, George Dureau started taking pictures for the pleasure of photographing his lovers, and as research material for his paintings. Only later on did he begin to take his photographs seriously as works of art in their own right. Dureau is known for his tender, homoerotic approach to his subjects, among them hustlers, amputees, dwarves, and drifters. Compared to Robert Mapplethorpe’s work, Dureau’s photographs distinguish themselves by the intimate connection between photographer and subject. “My models are people who are beautiful and sexy and the fact that there’s a stump where an arm or a leg should be doesn’t mar their sexiness or their beauty,” Dureau said in a 2005 interview. “You don’t say, ‘Well, let’s throw out this little Roman sculpture because it’s partly broken.’”


George Dureau, Roosevelt Singleton, 1974
© the artist, courtesy Arthur Roger Gallery and Higher Pictures


George Dureau, Fred Temnel, 1976
© the artist, courtesy Arthur Roger Gallery and Higher Pictures


George Dureau, Earl Leavell, 1977
© the artist, courtesy Arthur Roger Gallery and Higher Pictures


The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin
Nan Goldin’s iconic visual diary chronicles the struggle for intimacy and understanding between her friends, family, and lovers in the 1970s and ’80s. Her work describes a world that is visceral, charged, and seething with life. What’s more, Goldin's work challenged censorship, disrupted gender stereotypes, and brought crucial visibility and awareness to the AIDS crisis. Goldin herself has said “I’m bisexual so I can’t really come out as gay. When I’m gay, I’m very gay. And when I’m with men then, you know, I’m with men. I don’t fall in love with people because of their gender.”


Nan Goldin, Trixie on the cot, New York City, 1979
© the artist


Nan Goldin, Twisting at my birthday party, New York City, 1980
© the artist


Brush Fires in the Social Landscape by David Wojnarowicz
Throughout his career, David Wojnarowicz’s use of photography was extraordinary, as was his unprecedented ways of addressing the AIDS crisis and issues of censorship, homophobia, and narrative. Brush Fires in the Social Landscape, begun in collaboration with the artist before his death in 1992, explores Wojnarowicz’s profound legacy through the lens of his friends and community, among them Nan Goldin and Kiki Smith.


David Wojnarowicz, Seeds of Industry II, 1988-89
© the Estate of David Wojnarowicz, Courtesy P.P.O.W Gallery, New York


David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (face in dirt), 1990
© the Estate of David Wojnarowicz, Courtesy P.P.O.W Gallery, New York


David Wojnarowicz, Where I’ll Go After I’m Gone, 1988-89
© the Estate of David Wojnarowicz, Courtesy P.P.O.W Gallery, New York


Manhattan Sunday by Richard Renaldi
As a young man who had recently embraced his gay identity, Richard Renaldi found a home in “the mystery and abandonment of the club, the nightscape, and then finally daybreak, each offering a transformation of Manhattan from the known world into a dreamscape of characters acting out their fantasies on a grand stage.” In Manhattan Sunday, Renaldi captures that ethereal moment when Saturday night blurs into Sunday morning in Manhattan, and evokes the vibrant nighttime rhythms of the city.


Richard Renaldi, from Manhattan Sunday
© the artist


Richard Renaldi, from Manhattan Sunday
© the artist


Richard Renaldi, from Manhattan Sunday
© the artist


Paz Errázuriz: Survey
Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz is known for spending months or years within a given community, building trust and carefully studying social structures, among them brothels, shelters, psychiatric wards, and boxing clubs, where women were prohibited. In the 1980s, during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, Errázuriz took took pictures of trans prostitutes working in clandestine brothels in Santiago and Talca. “The resulting series, La manzana de Adán (Adam’s apple, 1982–87), shows the intimacies fostered by queer men and trans women in the chosen families formed within brothels,” Julia Bryan-Wilson writes. “Decades before the rise of the phrase trans feminism and the increased mainstreaming of (some) trans bodies, Errázuriz’s La manzana de Adán sought to capture Chilean trans women without shame or stigma.”


Paz Errázuriz, Evelyn IV, Santiago, from the series Adam’s apple
Courtesy the artist


Paz Errázuriz, Club Buenos Aires, Santiago, from the series (In twos) Tango
Courtesy the artist


Paz Errázuriz, Boxer VI, Santiago, from the series Boxers: The fight against the angel, 1987
Courtesy the artist


Suburban by Jimmy DeSana
Jimmy DeSana’s sexually charged photos of nude subjects in Suburban, unpack stereotypes and examine cultural mores. A leading figure in New York’s downtown art scene during the 1970s and ’80s, DeSana has played a key role in picturing queer identity. His surreal photographs incorporate everyday items to explore the human body as both a living and sculptural object. “I don’t really think of that work as erotic,” DeSana told Laurie Simmons, his contemporary and longtime roommate. “I think of the body almost as an object.”


Jimmy DeSana, Thimbles, 1983
© the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94


Jimmy DeSana, Storage Boxes, 1980
© the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94


Jimmy DeSana, Untitled, 1979
© the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94

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