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Los Angeles, U.S.A - Artist Michael Becker was recently struck by the disparity of the Los Angeles gay community of today to the one he remembers finding when he first moved there.
“It wasn’t considered OK to be gay in 1963. It was a crime,” said Becker.
His latest exhibit celebrates the liberation of gays from where they were to where they are now. Using photos he took with his camera phone in a 45-minute period of time on the eve of the Gay Pride festival in 2011, Becker captures the essence of acceptance and respect felt by today’s gay population.
Being present at numerous raids at The Four Star – the Rolls Royce of gay bars 50 years ago – Becker would watch friends be arrested for being gay. He himself was beaten and left for dead by young men in a hate crime incident in June of 1968. He was lured from the corner of Robertson and Melrose to Laurel Canyon.
“They kicked me beyond recognition – my nose was broken in five places,” Becker recalls. “I only survived because I pretended my neck was broken so they left.”
Fast forward to 2011 when Becker was visiting a bar and learned it was the eve of the Gay Pride festival.
“I became enveloped by the music emanating from the bar and watched drag queens, lesbians and other people very free in their expression,” he said. “I walked over to almost the same corner where I had been ambushed many years ago and starting taking photos with my Samsung Galaxy phone.”
His pictures are a stark contrast to the images in his mind of Los Angeles past.
He has culled 13 images from the very spontaneous photo session, which have been enlarged and mounted on Plexiglas for the exhibit which will run from June 15 to July 2 at The Julia Dean Photo Workshops, with all proceeds going to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. An artist’s reception will be held from 6 – 10 pm on June 15 at The JDPW Center, located at 755 Seward St. in Los Angeles.
“This show is different from all my others in one regard – it’s mainly people,” said Becker, who is best known for his architectural photography. CARS – his successful show earlier this year at Gallery Brown, highlighted his stylized photos of classic vehicles.
Smaller versions of some photos from the Gay Pride collection hang in AIDS Project Los Angeles’ new Wellness Center in Baldwin Hills.
“The tie-in is irresistible. My show is in June benefiting the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and the same images are permanently installed in the AIDS Project Los Angeles’ building,” he said.
“Picture it,” said Becker. ”I was left for dead in 1968 and watched joyous young people in 2011. The recollection brings tears to my eyes.”
Image Courtesy of Guillaume Paumier