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Exhibition: Alvin Baltrop

An exhibition of work from gay African-American photographer, Alvin Baltrop


A new photography exhibition is soon to open at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. The gallery will showcase the work of gay African-American photographer, Alvin Baltrop (1948 -2004) from 7 December to 9 February, 2014.

When he left the US Navy, Baltrop, a self-taught photographer dedicated his working life to documenting the gay-cruising culture in mid-70s and 80s Manhattan that centred around the abandoned shipping piers before the AIDS epidemic struck. The photographer lived for days on end in a removal van, recording the precarious lives of those who gathered and lived around the piers. His subjects range from lovers to strangers to the homeless to runaways to murder victims.

Aside from their mere aesthetic value, the photographs provide a unique snapshot in time to the decaying architecture and landscape of a Manhattan that no longer exists, and the turning point of the sexual revolution of that time.

The Open Eye Gallery hopes to draw parallels between the regeneration of Liverpool’s docks and those in Manhattan, pictured in Baltrop’s work. Unproductive and deserted, the New York ‘s waterfront was gradually reclaimed by an
invisible population who used it for a variety of activities, spanning gay cruising, drug-dealing and smuggling to prostitution, but also bringing together an underground community of visual artists, musicians, film-makers, performers and photographers.

Alongside Baltrop, the Open Eye Gallery will also display the works of Gordon Matta-Clark, an ‘anarchitect’ who worked in the same areas of Manhattan who hoped that art would be able to act as a catalyst to urban regeneration.

For more information on the Open Eye Gallery visit their website at openeyegallery.org

Words: Jack Rear

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