Photo Exhibit Keeps Eye On Proud Past

ACT-UP’s Glory Days

It’s never too early to start thinking about the gay explosion known as Pride. It is, after all, only a few weeks away, so you guys may want to get out a pen and circle June 16th – the day Los Angeles’ Drkrm. Gallery unveils its historical pictorial, “SILENCE = DEATH: Los Angeles AIDS Activism 1987–2007”.

A commemoration of ACT-UP/Los Angeles’ golden years, the exhibit features the work of homo-photog Chuck Stallard. Above you see a picture taken during a 1990 rally on Market Street.


Read more about the show, after the jump.

From Drkrm Gallery:

ACT UP/LA’s quite effective strategy was to mix angry street activism with hometown media-savvy. Officially formed in December 1987, the group was known for its smart graphics and catchy slogans (“He Kills Me” read the caption for a poster of President Ronald Reagan, who failed to act on or mention AIDS in the critical earliest years of the pandemic). ACT UP worked nationally as well as locally, initiating such federal programs as compassionate access to drugs still under FDA review, and demanding universal healthcare as the first step to responding to AIDS. With its core of gay male activists, ACT UP formed progressive coalitions to press for a women’s right to choose, fair labor practices, and a diversion of tax dollars from foreign invasions to domestic healthcare. Silence = Death revives some of the most dramatic moments captured by a photographer never afraid to put his lens in the fray.

Chuck Stallard, a member of ACT UP/LA as well as its photographic chronicler, had access to the calm and the storms of AIDS activism. Because the group had to fight for the attention of mainstream media, and because many of the actions carried out by ACT UP members were crafted to provoke authorities, Stallard’s work benefited not from distance but from proximity. Possessing both the trust of his fellow activists and the fearlessness to step towards charging police instead of away from them, he managed to capture history.

Exhibition curator Stuart Timmons writes about Los Angeles, gay life, and his own imagination. His biography of gay movement founder Harry Hay was a Book of the Month Club selection, and his recent book, Gay L.A., made the Los Angeles Times best-seller list. Timmons’ writing has appeared in several anthologies, as well as national and local magazines. He has worked at several non-profit organizations, including as Executive Director for ONE, the National Gay & Lesbian Archives.

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