The Gay Essay
A native of Los Angeles, Anthony Friedkin (b. 1949) honed his photographic skills at an early age and became a professional artist after he graduated from high school in the late 1960s. A variety of magazine assignments took him into the streets of his hometown, where he created vivid photo essays that examined the diverse neighborhoods and touched on some of the most important social and cultural issues of the time. During the culturally tumultuous years of 1969 to 1973, Friedkin made a series of eloquent and expressive photographs that chronicle the gay communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco at the time. The Gay Essay was a self-assigned project and, although largely unknown today, it arguably comprises the most important set of photographs in Friedkin’s portfolio to date.
For the first time, the full depth and range of this unique series will be presented in an exhibition at the de Young. Coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay will present approximately 75 vintage prints. Friedkin’s portraits, taken in streets, hotels, bars, and dancehalls, demonstrate a sensitivity and an understanding that has imbued the series with an enduring resonance. Contact prints, documents, and other materials from the photographer’s archive will also be on view, illuminating the conception, process, and execution of this work and the broader historical context that gave rise to it.
The catalogue is published with the assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment for Publications.