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Gay Semiotics
by Hal Fischer
© 1977



Media Images


Street Fashions

> Addendum


In February 1977 I began work on a series of photographs which dealt with signaling devices found in the gay community. The images evolved out of my attempts to integrate the phenomena I observed in my neighborhood (Castro Street & Haight Ashbury) with my readings on structuralism.

Originally I had not planned to continue beyond the signalling photographs, but I quickly realized that from an anthropological position I had only scratched the surface of the gay experience. At that time my interest was further generated by the fact that I could not find any books or written information dealing with the visual iconography of the gay lifestyle. During this period Donna-Lee Phillips suggested that I write an essay on gay semiotics for Eros and Photography . The research and subsequent article (reproduced here) formed the nucleus for many of the photographic ideas which appear in this book.

The exhibition of these photographs and publication of Gay Semiotics have occurred at a time when gay people have been forced to both evaluate and defend their lifestyles. In the past year we have witnessed the Anita Bryant purge and continued legislative attempts to curtail human rights. We have also observed San Francisco's incredible gay day parade of 1977 and a developing awareness on social, economic, and political levels. At this point I cannot begin to describe how these things have affected my work, except to say that I hope this book will be part of the new and growing consciousness.

Gay Semiotics could not have been created without the assistance of many individuals:

My models (Richard, Tom, Michael, Rick, Kile, Bill, Tinker, Jon, Billy, Dan, Michael, Skip, Wayne, Larry, Doug, and Steven) were not only amazingly patient, but made suggestions and criticisms which were crucial to the development of my thinking.

Nick O'Demus of the Trading Post supplied the leather apparel and restraint funiture which appear in these photographs and also provided me with information on the origins of gay semiotics.

Don Lawson and Edward de Celle of the Lawson de Celle Gallery were responsible for the first public showing of this work in August 1977.

And Donna-Lee Phillips and Lew Thomas, who in addition to presenting me with provocative theories and reading material for the past year, furnished the technical expertise to make Gay Semiotics a reality.

Hal Fischer

November, 1977
San Francisco, California