• James Clive Richards

Fire Island Pines 🌴 by Tom Bianchi.

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Tom Bianchi is a queer and homosexual culture photographer who's subject matter is always exclusively queer. One of his most famous projects is Fire Island Pines which is a series of photographs taken between 1973 - 1985. The location for the long running project was Fire Island Pines, New York, USA which during the 1970's, 80's and 90's was considered a gay paradise where gay men could gather and feel safe to explore their sexuality.

"In cities, police regularly conducted raids on bars, bathrooms, and known cruising locations. Being gay could cost you your job, your home, or your life. Fire Island was the first place many queer people were able to feel free — letting loose at afternoon tea dances, sharing showers, partying after sunset, skinny dipping, or simply holding hands on the beach openly for the first time". - Emily Manning, 2017.
Fire Island Pines by Tom Bianchi©, 2013.

Fire Island Pines therefore became a safe place for many gay men where they could travel to meet up with friends and be their most authentic queer selves free from outside prejudice and scrutiny from modern straight culture.

"We carved out the tiniest little place just for ourselves, where we could be safe and laugh and play with one another on the beach, and not have any negative judgement surrounding us. What that did was attract the best and the brightest gays from all over America". - Tom Bianchi, 2013.

Bianchi would travel to Fire Island Pines, New York for a total of 9 years continuously where he would meet up with both friends and lovers, to intimately photograph the hidden lives and loves of the men within the safety of the queer paradise. Although, some of Bianchi's photographs seem graphic they still poses a poignant beauty of trust and respect between Bianchi and the men he photographed. They knew they were safe with him and he was photographing them with respect and care, not exploitative or with a seedy intent at all.

Instagram screenshots of Tom Bianchi feedback by James Richards©, 2018.

I've followed and been a fan of Bianchi and his work for many years. Being so inspired by Fire Island Pines after purchasing my very own copy in 2015 that I bought a Polaroid camera of my own to experiment with the photographic medium. Even going so far as to discuss Bianchi and his work within queer photography in my final year dissertation in-which I discussed the representation of queer culture through the photography of the 1980's and beyond.

So, imagine the shock when one day I woke up to discover Bianchi had reached out and liked four of my Instagram posts!! I was elated that someone I have followed and looked up to as a queer photographer had even noticed my work. The excitement peaked when I later saw he had taken the time to send me a direct message through Instagram offering words of encouragement. 

"Beautiful portraits. Persevere working with this approach. - Delve deeper, investigate the models vulnerability and you will discover something exceptional". - Tom Bianchi direct message to @james.c.richards, 2018.
Tom Bianchi by Unknown©, N.D.

Tom Bianchi Website -

Tom Bianchi Instagram - @tombianchi

Emily Manning - intimate polaroids from fire island, new york’s queer paradise

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