In this intimate and nostalgic collection of evocative images, a young Nicholas Blair artfully captures the “gay streets” that launched a cultural movement from coast to coast—a movement that became the unmatched world of Pride today.
“From the Castro Valley in San Francisco to the conga-line of Christopher Street that cuts through New York’s West Village the vanished world that the photos in Nicholas Blair’s book revitalize have far less to do with capturing specific places than with freezing a unique time—one in which the very concept of “gay streets” had meanings and functions nowhere to be found in the modern world, queer or otherwise.
In the era of these photos—between 1979 and 1986—as well as for many years before and more than a decade after, nearly everything that was commonly considered “gay” either happened on streets like these or was tangentially connected to them. The special world that reality created can be seen in all its heat, humor, and intimacy in Blair’s photographs.
The cliché is to call what these photos capture “a community.” But, to me, it has more to do with a sensibility and an experience, ones that, however divorced from the current world, remain deeply embedded in something eternal: History.”
— From the introduction by Jim Farber
Nicholas Blair grew up in New York City. In 1977 he dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco to help create an arts commune and the Ancient Currents Gallery. He apprenticed with the photographer Henry “Hank” Wessel and received his MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1981. He has received photography and filmmaking fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Jerome Foundation. Blair’s photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The International Center for Photography, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris, France.
Jim Farber is a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Guardian, and numerous other publications. For 25 years he was the chief music critic of the New York Daily News and has been writing about culture since the 1970s. He is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music criticism and is an adjunct professor at NYU.