Alvin Baltrop

African American photographer Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) photographed the gay community in the 1970s at the piers in New York.

This was a New York just after Stonewall, but before the HIV crisis took hold. Gay subculture was changing rapidly, and Alvin began recording it with his camera. Pier 48 was then an abandoned wooden structure where gay men met to socialise and have sex.

Though he had relationships with both men and women, Baltrop refused to identify as bisexual and always preferred the gay community. He documented a vital era in the development of gay rights including photographing several icons of gay history like Stonewall Vetran Marsha P. Johnson.

Unfortunately the gay art world did not embrace Baltrop in his lifetime, and he suffered from untrue accusations that his photographs were taken by a white photographer. Randall Wilcox wrote that ‘Al Baltrop endured constant racism from gay curators, gallery owners and other members of the ‘gay community’ until his death. Many of these people doubted that Baltrop shot his own photographs; some implied or directly told him that he stole the work of a white photographer’.

Luckily his work was rediscovered after his death in 2004, leading to several major showings and the Alvin Bishop foundation.

Author: Jack Drago

Porn star, webmaster, and hypnotist