On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This was not an uncommon occurrence, as most bars catering to the LGBTQ+ community were raided regularly during the 1960s. However, this night was remarkable for the reaction— bar patrons, fed up with constant harassment, fought back. What immediately followed was six days of protests and continued confrontations with police. Now, it’s marked as the beginning of an organized effort for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.
Fred W. McDarrah, staff photographer for the Village Voice, was on the scene that night. Though his broad series of works have become iconic, these particular photos sparked a close association with the LGBTQ+ rights movement in New York City. He continued to photograph and document the community through the 1990s. Originally published in 1994, this collection of photographs has been revised and expanded to coincide with the 2019 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
As a collection of McDarrah’s work, this book works brilliantly. McDarrah has a way of snapping shots that feels organic. They’re natural, unobtrusive, and a little dangerous. It’s almost as if the pages aren’t handled carefully, the action in each picture might be disrupted. His photos feel as though they are windows, the figures playing out their scenes just beyond the page.
From a historical context, there are a few issues. The Trans community does have some representation, though named Trans individuals are mostly limited to a few spreads of Marsha P. Johnson. Considering the sheer volume of Trans activists promoting LGBTQ+ rights, this seems off.
As well, the introduction to this updated reissue mentions that the original title Gay Pride was switched to just Pride in order to be more inclusive. There are a series of small essays and quotations peppered throughout the book, and some of this space is given to Jim Fouratt. While Fouratt has been a gay activist, he’s also promoted many anti-Trans comments. It’s not that his work should be struck from history, but his prominence here is unfortunate.
There is also no material beyond the mid-1990s, but that solidly keeps this book as just a piece of the story. A pictorial history of any movement should not be an absolute history. The incredible photography should, and does, stand on its own, but it also require supplemental materials to be complete.
However, when viewed with a limited scope, as McDarrah’s front row seat to a piece of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, this book clicks.
Photographer: Fred W. McDarrah
Publisher: OR Books
Publication Date: May 07, 2019
Classification: LGBTQ+, Nonfiction, Photography
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.