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Tom Bianchi: Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975-1983 Hardcover – May 31, 2013
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A collection of SX-70 Polaroids made between 1975 and 1983, 'Fire Island Pines' is a fraught and fascinating period piece: a dazzling view of Eden before the Fall. (Vince Aletti TIME)
For nearly a decade the lawyer-turner-photographer captured the hedonistic parties, the sun-kissed, chiseled bodies and sexually-charged experiementation of the storied weekend getaway. This summer a collecrtion of Bianchi's picturescelebrating the euphoric, anything-goes years preceding the AIDS epidemic has been published for the first time in a coffee table tome Tom Bianchi: Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975-1983. (Luigi Tadini Paper Magazine)
Bianchi began documenting all aspects of life in the gay Pines enclave where he spent his summers-- the love, the partying, the natural splendor of the barrier island 60 miles east of the city, where a deep sense of community was availible to many who felt closeted or stifled in their everyday lives. (Kimberly Chou The Wall Street Journal)
The beautiful men who occupied those houses are the focus of another new book due to arrive this week: "Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983," by the photographer Tom Bianchi.
For decades, the pictures in that book lay in boxes at the photographer's Palm Springs, Calif., residence; when he finally retrieved them, Mr. Bianchi explained last week, he was startled to discover a trove recording not merely hundreds of muscular bodies, but a record of a forgotten place and time.
True, the images he created focus largely on buff young men disporting themselves. But they also capture something far less obvious: the exuberance of a culture in transformation, of a generation discovering itself in what Mr. Bianchi termed "a gay Brigadoon."
"I was the young, lonely gay boy in the Midwest who had no idea paradise existed," Mr. Bianchi said. "Everything about the Pines was new, the very idea of a place where you could play on the beach and hold hands with a guy and be with like-minded people and dance all night with a man."
The period his book documents, in the last moments before a random virus laid waste to a generation of gay men, "was a very sexy and a very sexual time."
"But it wasn't a shallow experience whatsoever," he said. "I met some pretty incredible people. We certainly loved." (Guy Trebay The New York Times, Styles Section)
"After knocking on too many more locked doors, I put the photos away in a box. The Pines was ground zero as AIDS exploded about that time. That was 40 years ago. A horrific amount of the life recorded in my pictures was consumed in the chaos of the crisis within a few years. I could not have imagined then that my Polaroids would so suddenly become a record of a lost world-my box of pictures a mausoleum, too painful to visit. When I reopened the box decades later, I found friends and lovers playing and smiling. Alive again." -Tom Bianchi (Editors OUT Magazine)
This year, Fire Island's legendary enclave the Pines celebrates its 60th anniversary season, but its real heyday dates to the 1970s and early '80s, when fit young men started streaming into the area, earning the Pines its reputation as a sand-swept gay bacchanal. Tom Bianchi's Polaroids captured the liberated mood of those days, and they're now collected in a handsome book, "Tom Bianchi: Fire Island Pines" (Damiani). (Alex Hawgood The New York Times: T Magazine)
"I wanted to make a book about these people that's going to be interesting 100 years from now," says Tom Bianchi of his new volume, Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983 (Damiani), which depicts eight summers of gay life on the Long Island sandbar. "In taking the photos, my first mission was to show that boys like me knew they had a place to go, and the second was to let the world know there was nothing threatening about us," says Bianchi of his intimate, sun-dappled images. The book's subjects-shown frolicking at the beach, lazing in bed, dancing, holding each other, and hanging out in modernist beach houses-are palpably exhilarating, and the sense of joy is so immersive that it's easy to forget, if just for a few minutes, the waiting epilogue that struck the gay community soon after. "The book has for me a profound emotional resonance," says the 67-year-old photographer, who lives in Palm Springs but still spends several weeks every summer on Fire Island. "I'm looking at myself and many other young men who were vividly alive and celebrating their freedom for the first time."
That celebration, of course, involved easy sex, which is imprinted throughout the book in the group shots of beautiful men who seemed to live primarily in and out of Speedos. "Being a sort of horny devil, I can remember a beautiful figure emerging from the surf, saying 'Hi,' getting a smile back, and finding your life transformed in a moment," says Bianchi. "It was about the connectivity. I tried to give a sense of the world we lived in. I found very strong connections between us, our style and the place-you would never attempt a community anywhere but in a place that beautiful."
Bianchi took a prototype of the book to a major publisher in 1980; editors loved it but the sales team blanched and quashed the project. In the years since, Bianchi became known as one of the premier horny devils of male-physique photography via a number of art books devoted to the classic nude. "But I always knew the time would come for the Fire Island book," he says. "I hope it's available to a younger audience who can see how gay freedom started and what it looked like." Bianchi takes a freighted pause. "I can't say we martyred ourselves. We had no choice. The world was too beautiful, and we had too much fun." (Michael Martin Interview)
Unbridled hedonism, superlative beauty, endless sunshine. This is the world of Tom Bianchi's Fire Island Pines, a barrier island off the coast of Long Island, New York that has been a holiday haven for the gay community since the sixties. (Tish Wrigley Another Magazine)
About the Author
Edmund White is the author of the novels Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and The Married Man; a biography of Jean Genet; a study of Marcel Proust; and, most recently, a memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he has now settled in New York, and he teaches at Princeton University. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
More About the Author
His nineteen books of photographs, poems, and essays primarily cover the gay male experience in a variety of contexts - from aesthetic philosophy - IN DEFENSE OF BEAUTY - to poetry to erotic photography. He is currently working on an album and stage presentation of some poems being set to song from his book MEN I'VE LOVED.
Tom was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. He got a law degree at Northwestern and practiced corporate law for ten years. At thirty -four he left his position as Senior Counsel at Columbia Pictures, tore up his law degree, pasted it into a painting and had his first one man show with Betty Parsons and Carol Dreyfuss in New York. Shortly thereafter, Tom had his first major museum retrospective at the Spoleto Festival in 1984.
In 1990, St. Martins Press published OUT OF THE STUDIO, Tom's groundbreaking book of male nudes, frankly gay and affectionally connected. That book opened a door for more honest visions of gay men and a better understanding of their intimate lives. Thereafter, nineteen of Tom's books have been published, three documentary films about Tom's work have been distributed, and Tom's work has been published in more than thirty anthologies on the male nude. His ON THE COUCH series, DEEP SEX and EROTIC TRIGGERS deal with the expression of conscious sexual energy. This body of work has earned Tom respect as one of the most important artists dealing with erotic imagery and imagination. His body of work is the largest record ever made by a single artist of a culture's intimate life.
Tom also co-founded a biotech company, CytoDyn, developing a new therapy for treatment of HIV / AIDS.
TOMBIANCHI.com is Tom's website that includes detailed information on Tom and his work. Tom writes a blog which is a showcase for new work and the world as he sees it. The posts are fun, witty and sexy. And for people who want to go behind the scenes there is a huge archive of over 20,000 images with weekly updates in the Members Area.
Facebook: TOMBIANCHIFANPAGE - Here you will find updates on Tom's work and includes photo galleries from shoots as well as Tom's travels around the world.
Twitter: Follow Tom @tombianchi
You can reach Tom directly through all the places above if you are interested in being a subject of his books and films or are interested in collecting Tom's work.
Top Customer Reviews
What sets this portfolio apart from the very popular other portfolios of men that Tom Bianchi has continued to produce (Out of the Studio, On the Couch, Deep Sex and In Defense of Beauty, etc) is the sentiment behind these images. These are unposed images, candid shots of men at play unaware of the incipient cloud that would change everything. The design of the pages is from Bianchi himself and the juxtapositions of the Polaroids tell a series of tales.
As much as this book is a portfolio of men at play, images of the beauty of Fire Island, moods and atmospheres, it is also now an historical document of a time in the past before all the subsequent changes, both negative and positive, in the debate of gender studies that continues today. Grady Harp, May 13
A very special time in my life!!
Beautiful book! Gay men young& old should have a copy, to enjoy this rich history
And it is this text that accompanies the photos that I found most remarkable... and most moving. In fact I was moved to tears several times by the beauty of his prose, and the memories that were stirred up by it. He has found a way to bring back to me, in a profound way, one of the most life-altering periods of my life. And for that I am truly grateful.
If you are a lover of this scrumptious sandbar that is two hours from New York City and a million miles from reality... or if you have interest in knowing something of it's history, get this book. I personally will treasure it forever.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was so fantastic. I discovered FIP 5 years ago and have met some of the men who came here during its heyday. This book captures that moment in time perfectly. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Alec Negron
This book is a true gem. Tom Bianchi captured the gay history of Fire Island. This book puts Tom Bianchi in the ranks of the finest photographers alive today !!!!Published 7 months ago by Stanley W. Light
The book is a beautiful collection. You must read the text to fully understand and appreciate the pictures. Read morePublished 7 months ago by JERJR
This is a great book of a Fire Island Era. My friend loves it. The pictures are amazing.Published 11 months ago by BCORELLAR
Hot pics of a hot time. You can feel the energy and naivete that youth, education, a new openess and yes, money (this was Fire Island) had brought. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Danny W Heath
Great book that provides a pictorial history of the Gay culture. Will bring back memories for those who grew up during this era. My husband loves this book!Published 13 months ago by Tim Coleman
100's of polaroids of early 80's circuit boys partying on fire island? SURE YES PLEASE.Published 17 months ago by rhubarb jones
The casual ease of these men during oppressive times is a revelation.Published 19 months ago by Mike Barnes