Ensemble de 15 photographies originales signées inédites de Christopher Street Liberation Day March, New York 1970
Paris 1970, 19,5x30cm, 15 photographies.
The first major uprising of the queer community
Exceptional feature of 15 original black and white silver print photographs, signed by Jean-Pierre Laffont
; all bear on the back the stamp of Jean-Pierre Laffont for the Gamma agency, some also have a long caption mimeographed in French. The original prints of these photographs are extremely rare, museums and galleries only possessing modern prints issued by the photographer's estate.A touching and vivid account of the first Gay Pride March, in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots that became the cradle of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement and subsequent gay liberation movements around the world.
On June 28, 1969, police raided Stonewall, a mafia-owned dance bar in Greenwich Village catering primarily to gay and transgender people. The city had revoked the liquor licenses of gay bars and police officers regularly hassled its customers because of their sexual orientation. That night at Stonewall was one too many: cornered by Village residents and customers, the police were forced to retreat inside the bar and the riot lasted seven days. On June 6, 2019, nearly 50 years after the historic uprising, the New York Police Department has apologized for its role in the events.
Now considered to be the origin of the gay liberation movement, Stonewall led to the creation of some of the first gay rights activist organizations, such as the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (better known as STAR and founded by two of the most prominent transgender activists: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera).
The uprising called for a new kind of movement. With this purpose, the Christopher Street Liberation Day March was held on June 28, 1970, one year to the day after Stonewall. Only a few brave groups first gathered at Sheridan Square (Greenwich village), before other people started joining in on their way to Sheep Meadow in Central Park, finally attracting more than 10,000 demonstrators. Annual Pride events were subsequently held in the summer in NYC and other major U.S. cities before reaching other continents after a few years, with hundreds of millions of people gathering for what has become one of the most prominent human rights demonstrations around the world.
Our set of photographs shows the diversity of protesters holding signs with slogans “Smash Sexism” or “Perverts' union for gay liberation”. Others wear t-shirts with explicit messages – “Woman/Butch”, “Master/Slave” – or demonstrated in the nude. Some participants wore black t-shirts with the Greek letter lambda (λ), the liberation symbol chosen by the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), easily confused with college fraternities' insignia. It was officially recognized as the international gay and lesbian symbol at the International Gay Law Congress in Edinburgh in 1974.
Two photos feature Rev. Robert Clement wearing his cassock and proudly holding a sign that reads “Gay people this is your church”. In 1970, he founded the Church of the Beloved Disciple, first “gay church” in New York City, not only welcoming gay parishioners but also the first to include openly gay pastors. Rev. Clement created and celebrated the first “Holy Unions” – same-sex religious marriage ceremonies. Early lesbian activist from the Mattachine Society Nancy Tucker and her companion Marta also pose in front of Jean-Pierre Laffont's lens. Both sporting short hair, glasses and of similar physiques, they wear t-shirts “Fem” and “Butch”, condemning the gendered dichotomy between so-called feminine lesbians and those labeled masculine. In a 2018 interview with Haley Steinhilber, Nancy Tucker reveals that another photograph of her and Marta taken on the same day made the front page of the Village Voice
newspaper: her hair had been touched up to make her look more feminine.
The trans community is also represented throughout the pictures. Several photos taken at the Central Park kissing contest feature Judy Bowen, a prominent transgender activist and founder of Transsexual Anonymous, passionately kissing her friend Philip Raia, a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance. Another kissing contestant shown here is painter and gay pornographic actor Gustav “Tava” von Will who starred in the iconic lost porn movie “Him as Jesus” and died of AIDS in 1991.
Another kissing contestant shown here is painter and gay pornographic actor Gustav “Tava” von Will, victim of AIDS in 1991, who starred as Jesus in the famously lost gay porn feature film Him. A print of the iconic image of a couple under an umbrella giving the middle finger is now part of the MEP collections (Maison Européenne de la Photographie). Disabled protesters, members of the Black queer community are seen proudly marching and dancing in this key moment in modern American history, captured through the lens of a major photographer who dedicated his work to the visual representation of oppressed peoples in the U.S.
Unique set highlighting the first major uprising of the queer community.
Jean-Pierre Laffont first arrived in the U.S. in 1965 and began his career as a photojournalist in New York for Status Magazine and then as U.S. correspondent for the French agency Reporters Associés.
He became Foreign Correspondent for Gamma Press and in 1969 opened the Gamma Presse Images office in the U.S. with his wife Éliane. He also founded the Sygma Photo News Agency in 1973.
Laffont covered major American historical events – the Civil Rights movement and social protests against racial discrimination, the Vietnam War, demonstrations for Peace, women's rights, gay liberation, etc.
Initially intended for the press, his artworks have now reached iconic status and are featured in international photographic collections.
“On June 28, 1970, I attended the first New York Gay Pride March. The date marks the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which launched the LGBTQ+ liberation movement in the U.S. We left from Christopher Street, a gay cultural mecca in Greenwich Village, and walked up 6th Avenue to Central Park. To end the day, a kissing contest was held in the middle of the park! It was a great moment of joy, love and freedom. This couple, who kissed for hours under an umbrella, obviously didn't care about photographers” (Interview with Clément Thierry, 2021)
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