THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT A FRIEDKIN PHOTOGRAPH. August Bernadicou of “The LGBTQ History Project” organizing at the New York City Gay Pride March (6/26/22).
The Gay Essay · Anthony Friedkin 
Leica Gallery · Los Angeles
Until August 1, 2022

         In the Fall of 1971, 19-year-old Tony Friedkin showed up at the newly opened Gay Community Services Center on Wilshire Blvd. to request the help of Morris Kight and myself.  He wanted to photograph the people in the nascent gay community that was emerging into visibility as a result of the fledgling Gay Liberation movement.  
          He spoke with intelligent seriousness about the project and exuded an alive, passionate spirit.  Of course, we would help and opened doors for him.  Tony and I have remained friends and have continued to communicate and support each other over a fifty year span.
         The result of his photographic vision between 1971 and 1973 was the historically important and world famous “The Gay Essay.”  The photos from the essay are in the permanent collections of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and the International Center for Photography in New York City.  Yale University Press recognized the importance of his “The Gay Essay” by publishing a volume solely devoted to the essay, a unique honor.
         I highly recommend you make the Leica Gallery a destination in July to behold “The Gay Essay” by Anthony Friedkin.
Tony Speaks

            In 1969 while traveling and photographing through Europe, I asked myself what photo essay theme I could select upon my return to Los Angeles.  One that would really challenge me as a photographer, one that would push me to the limits both emotionally and artistically. I was nineteen at the time. This got me to thinking about a book I had in my photo library called “The Concerned Photographer”.  The essential premise of the book was to recognize that photography is a very personal means of communication. It suggested that the photographer, as an individual, has his very own recognizable graphic style and human content. One who translates what he sees and what he feels into frozen reality. The role of the photographer is to witness and be deeply involved with his subject.  My main objective as a photographer has always been, and still is, to create extraordinary photographs that speak to the power of the medium of photography as an art form. 
            I decided to photograph the Gay Community. My parents had many gay friends that would come over to our house while I was growing up.  Both gay men and women were openly welcomed into our home.  They brought passion, life, and laughter into our house.  I felt a connection to them and felt anger towards a society that shamed them, and told them they were sinners, freaks, and criminals.  How, as a society can we not respect one another’s most fundamental identity, (our sexual identity) and not treat each other with dignity? To this day, as a straight man, this distresses me greatly. What the LGBTQ community has been subjected to throughout history is deplorable.  This includes homophobic murder, being arrested and jailed unfairly, fired from numerous jobs, and shunned by most popular religions.  For many years homosexuality was described by the American Pschriatric association as a mental illness. And today, once again, gay people are under attack by many political and religious leaders-the whole thing is disgusting to me and this was one of the motivations for me to photograph “The Gay Essay”.  
I spent approximately 3 ½ years photographing the gay community, from 1969-1972.  I wanted to photograph homosexuals that were openly gay, not living in the closet, ones that were celebrating their personal freedom. I photographed Gay political leaders, drag queens, male prostitutes, gay couples, lesbians, gay religious leaders, the Hollywood vice-police in action, and gay liberation parades.  The following exhibition represents selections from “The Gay Essay.  In 2014 I had a major exhibition of these photographs at the De Young Museum in San Francisco and an accompanying museum catalogue was published by Yale University press.  
            I would like to dedicate “The Gay Essay” to the many exceptional individuals who allowed me into their lives, and warmly welcomed me with my camera in hand to witness and document their lifestyles.  I was a young photographer following my instincts, and creating “The Gay Essay” has turned out to be one of the most important projects of my life.  What was revealed to me through making this work is the human need to experience intimacy and love, along with a deep desire to connect with one another in passionate, physical ways.  These are feelings all people on earth share.  They are universal truths.  Everyone’s sexuality is unique and is something to celebrate and embrace. 
            I’d like to thank the Leica gallery, and especially the gallery director Paris Chong for giving me this opportunity to share these photographs again. I would also like to thank my fellow photographer and colleague Ryan Herz for helping me in the printing of the photographs that are on view in this exhibition.


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Let's make the LGBTQ community a grassroots and netroots community.
Animae Communitatis Colendae Gratia
(For the sake of tending to the soul of the community)

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Don Kilhefner, Ph.D., All rights reserved.

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