Under the Piers: Alvin Baltrop’s Gay New York
Alvin Baltrop, Friend (The Piers), 1977.
The Piers (open window), 1975-86.
The Piers (male figure by window), 1975-86.
The Piers (male drinking with cigarette), 1975-86.
Who? Open Eye Gallery’s current exhibition has cast light on the little known work of gay African American photographer Alvin Baltrop who beautifully, and obsessively, captured the clandestine activities taking place under New York piers between 1975 and 1986.
What? The waterfront was at this time in a state of abandonment and dilapidation, and played host to an invisible populace who exploited its potential as a spot for gay cruising, drug-dealing, prostitution and smuggling. All this caught the attention of the young Baltrop who, between his shifts working as a taxi driver, would spend hours documenting the crumbling buildings and their intriguing occupants. He was devoted to his project, monitoring his taxi’s dispatch radio for police frequency and, with a fervour that mirrored Weegee’s, zealously emerging at crime scenes to capture the event. He even made a harness that allowed him to hang from rafters and thus take more accurate and precise images. Text by Daisy Woodward.