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Tom Bianchi was not a professional artist when he began making photographs with a Polaroid XS 70 in 1976 — he was a young lawyer living a closeted life in New York and exulting in what he called an "invisible life in the gay paradise of Fire Island" on the weekends. Bianchi photographed fellow revelers, carefully keeping their faces out of frame. Being outed was career suicide in the real world, but those concerns were far away on Fire Island; there the homosexual population of the East Coast lived out fantasies of being who they really were. Skinny-dipping was accepted, nude sunbathing was common, but so were smaller achievements that perhaps mattered more: On Fire Island a same-sex couple could hold hands while strolling the beach. Bianchi photographed everything, compiling a historic record of a pivotal time and place in the gay revolution, and in doing so created art that celebrates the male physique with an eye as keenly appreciative as any classical sculptor. Tom Bianchi: Memories of Fire Island, a selection of 24 limited-edition archival prints from his collection of 9,000 images, opens with a free public reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 27, at the phd gallery (2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or www.phdstl.com). Bianchi will attend the opening reception, and Memories of Fire Island remains up through Saturday, August 15. The gallery is open Thursday through Sunday.
Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: June 27. Continues through Aug. 15, 2009

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