CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 5/31/2013
Kimberly Chou writes, "In the mid-1970s, Tom Bianchi, a young lawyer living in Manhattan, started bringing a new toy out to Fire Island: a SX-70 Polaroid camera. After shaking his initial shyness about taking pictures of his friends, Mr. Bianchi began documenting all aspects of life in the gay Pines enclave where he spent his summers — the love, the partying, and the natural splendor of the barrier island 60 miles east of the city, where a deep sense of community was available to many who felt closeted or stifled in their everyday lives."
After hatching the idea for a book of photographs, Mr. Bianchi joined a Polaroid program whereby one could return unwanted photos for free film. At one point during his project, which stretched into the 1980s, he was contacted by a Polaroid agent who wanted to know who he was—as it turned out, he was the second-largest buyer of Polaroid film. (Only IBM bought more, he said.)
Mr. Bianchi arranged meetings with publishers and art figures—including Sam Wagstaff, the legendary collector and benefactor of Robert Mapplethorpe—but couldn't get the project off the ground.
"The marketing departments at the big publishing houses didn't think it was commercially viable," he said.
As the book idled for three decades, Mr. Bianchi, now 67, nevertheless established himself as a visual artist and photographer, releasing more than a dozen books. Today, the Pines remains a haven for gay men (although, as Mr. Bianchi noted, the $1,500 that used to buy a summer share might now cover a weekend) and Fire Island Pines: Polaroids 1975-1983 is finally being released. In his introduction, Mr. Bianchi writes that the photos now double as a chronicle of the era before AIDS ravaged the community. "I could not have imagined then that my Polaroids would so suddenly become a record of a lost world—my box of pictures a mausoleum, too painful to visit."
To read Bianchi's interview with Kimberly Chou, visit The Wall Street Journal.
For more Polaroids, see the Fire Island Pines book page.
Hbk, 8.5 x 10 in. / 212 pgs / illustrated throughout.