Pride Gone By
By: CHRISTOPHER MURRAY
Among the photos on display at the LGBT Community Center are Suzanne Poli's "Color street scene, 1978," and Santiago Infantino's "Pony."
The View From My Window
The LGBT Community Center
208 W. 13th St.
Through Aug. 17
Two new photography shows at the LGBT Community Center present examinations of history and identity. "The View From My Window" is comprised of shots of the Gay Pride Parade Suzanne Poli snapped from the window of her Christopher Street apartment from 1970 through 1984. "Primero" is comprised of multi-media pieces by Argentine photographer Santiago Infantino, re-fashioning himself as a gay superhero in various guises.
Piro moved into her apartment in 1967 during the Summer of Love. A few years later, in 1969 on a hot night in late June, she heard the ruckus that would come to be known as the Stonewall Riots. The next year, when a commemorative protest paraded past her building, she leaned out to document the event, as she would do for the next three decades."I was working at the Greenwich House Settlement at the time and very passionate about rights and freedoms," said Poli. "It was nothing to me to pick up the camera and start shooting."
The 45 pictures in the show at the Center are from the thousands that Poli took over the years- of revelers, protesters, drag queens including Coco LaChine, activists such Marsha Johnson, and community leaders like the Center's own executive director, Richard Burns."My husband called Richard one day and explained that I had a collection of photos. He was immediately interested," and recognized their historic value, said Poli. It wasn't until later that they realized he was included in some of the pictures.
Poli's Yoshika camera became a tool for documenting the space between the passions and courage of individuals and mass movements that would revolutionize sexual politics in the years before the AIDS crisis."When I picked up the camera, I felt like I was fighting, too," Poli explained. "It made me feel good." Since then, in collaboration with her husband and with the support of J. P. Morgan Chase, she has documented life in various New York City neighborhoods in shows that have been placed in the bank's branches to showcase commitment to community relations.
Reflecting on the changes in the parade and gay rights over the years, Poli said of the images in her pictures, "It's so different than the Christopher Street of now. It's still a celebration and a party, but you can't forget the hardship that came before."
Gay identity is explored in a more personal way by Santiago Infantino. Since coming to New York from Argentina seven years ago, the artist, now based in Brooklyn, has created work in the tradition of photographers like Cindy Sherman, placing himself in idealized and romantic pictures he called "visions.""I have the power to show my soul," he said, "and I think that's not common in the art world."His pictures show himself in various settings - the artistic process is one that he sees as "creating the latest superhero."
Heavily influenced by both his Catholic faith and a fascination with pop culture and comic books, he may appear as a saint, a marine, a composite representation of Marilyn Monroe, or a hustling gay icon."I'm not like Tobey Maguire in 'Spiderman,'" said Infantino, meaning not a superhero created by an army of technicians and special effects magicians. "I have the power to transform myself, I'm making it myself. I think I'm creating the image of what every gay man wants to be."
To make his works, Infantino envisions elaborate scenes and then stages them with elaborate photo shoots he does all by himself. For one series of several photographs, he snuck into Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn wearing nothing but an elaborate cape, set up his tripod and while security guards circulated, waited until he was alone to get naked and take his pictures.The show at the Center is the first for Infantino and people's positive reaction to his work has been thrilling for him."It wasn't easy for me to move to a foreign country," he said. "Everything was tough, not speaking the language. When people said they thought my work was mesmerizing, that was priceless to hear people say those words."