Boys Found in Baltimore
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Published in: March-April 2024 issue.

Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery,
Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore
August 30–December 15, 2023

PHOTOGRAPHER Amos Badert-scher (1936–2023) captured the queer landscape of Baltimore from Eastern Avenue near Patterson Park, along Wilkens Avenue, and the Meat Rack on Park Avenue in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. His monograph Baltimore Portraits came out in 1999, and the recent exhibition Lost Boys: Amos Badertscher’s Baltimore in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, was the artist’s posthumous, first career retrospective. The exhibition included striking images of hustlers, club kids, go-go dancers, drag queens, drug addicts, friends, and lovers, and it established Badertscher’s centrality as an artist who documented queer Baltimore from the Stonewall era through the AIDS pandemic. He didn’t romanticize queer locations and the violence and risks: “I was forced to employ a number of eccentric and photogenic friends, gay and otherwise, and the ubiquitous teenagers who sold their bodies at an alarming number of locations throughout Charm City.”

            LGBT people are diasporic, and migration is often necessary for survival, particularly at a time when same-sex sexuality and gender difference were not just unwelcome, but illegal. They fled to urban centers where they could lead anonymous, hidden lives. Without community, social, or political systems, most relied on interpersonal relationships and career pursuits. During the 20th century, before assimilation and gentrification, there emerged heterogeneous subcultures in urban neighborhoods in places like New York’s Greenwich Village, West Hollywood, Boston’s South End, Chicago’s Northside, Philadelphia’s Center City, 39th Street in Oklahoma City, San Francisco’s Castro Street, and Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood.

Amos Badertscher. A Little More Keith Haring, Less Jasper, ca. 2001. Courtesy of the artist.

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Steven F. Dansky, a documentarian and writer, is a frequent contributor to this magazine.