At 28, he was a high-powered attorney at Columbia Pictures with no formal training in photography. Then Tom Bianchi
began snapping pictures of the gay haven Fire Island as a "political act," he says, because "at the time there was a great deal of prejudice and misunderstanding and confusion [toward the gay community], and I thought that showing the beauty of our world would help other people find their way to it, and would dissipate some of the animosity in the world toward us."
Now, more than 30 years later—with 12 books under his belt (including "Out of the Studio," "Men I've Loved," "On the Couch," and his latest, "Deep Sex"
), as well as three film documentaries inspired by his work—the 60-year-old Bianchi has become as legendary as his images, which have not only moved and aroused us, but have also represented
us to the deepest degree possible.
In his talk with RealJock, the master photographer blasts "gay" iconography of the past, gives us his definition of "porn," and shares some of his most striking work.
How would you characterize your style?
If you look at my earlier images you'll see that I needed to demonstrate to the art world that I knew how to take that "perfect moment" picture, the classic nude. The first efforts in photography as art were to imitate art or sculpture, to try to make photographs that looked like art.
My jumping-off point into my own style came about because of a famous Herb Ritts photograph— it was an image of a hunky guy in overalls, and he was holding a pair of tires. I saw that picture as emblematic of everything wrong going on at the time. He was on the short side, so they put blocks of wood underneath his legs to make him look taller. They used fake grease to make him look like a gas-station guy, and from what I heard on the street he was straight. But he became a gay iconic figure.
When I saw that image being held up and worshipped as fine art, I thought, How awful—to worship the unavailable. Bruce Webber, too—he was mostly photographing straight boys that he couldn't have.