Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay
In making his photographic series The Gay Essay (1969–1973), Anthony Friedkin approached his subjects with an open and inquiring mind to achieve a portrait of a community and its habitués that is fearless and devoid of judgment. The Gay Essay carefully charts several aspects of the gay world at the time: street life, protest, gay leaders, lesbian activists, transsexuals and drag queens, hustlers and vice cops, and more. Whether made in city streets, motels, bars, or dance halls, Friedkin’s photographs demonstrate an understanding and respect for the private lives of the people he has portrayed. From flamboyant street parades to late-night rendezvous, the photographs forthrightly show the beginnings of the Gay Liberation movement in California and offer insights into the lives of performers, activists, hustlers, and hopeful youths in quiet defiance of prevailing social norms. Four decades after its making, The Gay Essay functions as both a valuable time capsule and a record fit for the ages.