Past Life

PHOTOS: A Life-Affirming Look At San Francisco’s Gay Community In The ’80s

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When he wasn’t snapping shots for Los Angeles newspaper The Sentinal, photographer Thomas Alleman was a regular in San Francisco’s active gay scene in the mid-’80s.

Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws is his intimate photo series capturing San Francisco gay life in full — activism intersects hedonism, pain crosses pleasure, and life defies loss.

“We reported and photographed a blizzard of protests and demonstrations, vigils and marches and sit-ins, as the community struggled for social and political recognition of the crisis,” Alleman told Featureshoot.

Keeping in mind that the AIDS epidemic decimated S.F.’s gay community, it is the inclusion of triumphant moments that instills the power of the human spirit in Alleman’s work.

“But not every drumbeat was martial, of course. Often it was syncopated and disco-y, and I watched countless partiers dance to it with a shimmy and a bounce, and with life-affirming joy. While many of the pictures demonstrate a community in lamentation, many others are about anger and resolve, and most are about love and life. And disco and drag.”

Some things never change.

“And, while [the] tribe convulsed with well-earned fear, heartbreak and anger, some still found the courage and the will to celebrate the dream of life they’d come to San Francisco for, and they danced in the dragon’s jaws.”

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H/t: Nerve