By: Erin Dyer
At a young age, photographer Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) was given a twin-lens Yashica camera, and in turn, the opportunity to create journalistic still pictures of his experiences, as well as an intimate visual diary. The gift of a camera was what kick started his career as a photographer.
His projects commenced amongst an atmosphere of social, cultural, and political chaos in the 1960s. Baltrop witnessed firsthand the Countercultural Revolution and a sexual liberation movement that upended an era of social conformity for both heterosexual and homosexuals alike. A bisexual, Baltrop was conscious of this movement and the waves of transformation to follow, and was able to capture many of these intimate, ephemeral moments on film which now serve as a public record of the era.
Baltrop enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a medic from 1969-1972. His most recognized body of photographs– those of New York’s West Side piers– was produced during his time in the Navy.
Upon returning home from the Navy, Baltrop would consistently and obsessively photograph Manhattan’s West Side piers, which were steadily clad with prostitutes, drag queens, artists, the homeless, hustlers, cruisers, sunbathers, and gay men in search for spontaneous anonymous sex. He captured many interesting and intense scenes starring these interesting subjects over the course of a decade.
Baltrop was born in the Bronx, New York in 1948 and died from cancer at a Manhattan hospital in 2004. His photographic interpretations of the world around him were rarely publicized before his death, have been widely exposed to the art world in the last five years– including articles in Artforum magazine and the New York Times.
Perspectives 179-Alvin Baltrop: Dreams Into Glass at the CAMH will be the first major solo museum exhibition of Alvin Baltrop’s work. The exhibit, intended for mature eyes, will open tonight from 6:30-9pm, and will continue on view until October 21. A cash bar and frozen treats from local food truck, The Goodie Box, will be available tonight for the opening.
The featured photographs range from vintage 1960s photos to more current images from the early 2000s, and will be presented via an unprinted slideshow. Also featured will be a sound collage created from various phone conversations and interviews with the artist.