TOM BIANCHI was a corporate lawyer who fell in love with his weekends on Fire Island in the early 1970s. Fortunately for us, he turned away from his suit-and-tie life and became a photographer.
His first book, Out of the Studio (1991), displayed his photographs of beautiful gay men during an ugly time, when most cultural images of gay men were of bodies dying of AIDS, ailing, weak, and peppered with lesions. Bianchi later published an eloquent, small book called In Defense of Beauty (1995) in which he revealed that many of the gorgeous, strong men in his books were HIV positive, some of whom died not long after the images were made. His own partner had died a few months before he did that book. “Those pictures,” he wrote, “were meant to help me stay connected with what I feared I was losing forever.”
Bianchi’s latest book, Fire Island Pines: Polaroids, 1975-1983 (Damiani Books), takes us back even further, to a more idyllic time and to a storied place of glorious summers, sandy beaches, tea dances, and all the rest. But it’s not all about the past: it’s also about the community and about creating beautiful lives for ourselves and for each other.
Tom Bianchi currently lives in Palm Springs, California, with his partner Ben Smales. This interview was conducted by telephone last August.