Photographer Roger Erickson calls the characters he captured in his new show “people who have made a difference.”
“OUTspoken: Portraits of LGBTQ Luminaries,” his first major exhibition on view at San Francisco City Hall through September, is presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission. Coinciding with The City’s annual Pride celebration, the exhibit contains about 80 black-and-white photos of nationally recognized LGBT notables – artists, politicians, athletes and others – with 20 newly commissioned images of Bay Area figures among them.
Erickson says he wants the exhibit to “show people that there are individuals in other walks of life who influence what goes on in their own lives” – politicians pushing for gay-rights laws, for example, or clergy persons challenging traditional religious views on marriage.
He presents his subjects in creative settings he designs in collaboration with them. Sometimes the photos bring old Hollywood or noir cinema to mind.
At the same time, Erickson cites spontaneity as a significant factor in his method, and he inspires his subjects to put forth, beneath the guises, a sincere and serious picture of who they are.
Featured local figures include city supervisors David Campos and Scott Weiner, luminously photographed next to windows in their offices at City Hall.
Drag diva Peaches Christ strikes a dramatic pose in close-up, while artist James Gobel stands formidably in a doorway. Author Michelle Tea appears with her baby. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence combine fun with purpose.
Writer-activist Jewelle Gomez, choreographer Sean Dorsey, Galeria de la Raza’s Ani Rivera, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and punk-rockers Jon Ginoli and Lynnee Breedlove also are among the spotlighted locals.
In the national arena, comedian Wanda Sykes sports a message, Olympic gold-medalist Greg Louganis poses diver-like, and Denise Simmons, the first black openly lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city (Cambridge, Mass.), with an orchid in her hair, channels Billie Holiday. Playwright Edward Albee, photographed in profile, is the image of an American master. In one of Erickson’s favorite images, another photographer, Catherine Opie, personifies the spirit of the profession’s earlier days.
Erickson, a native of the East Bay, photographed Neil Young and Crazy Horse for Select magazine in 1990 and, in 1991, moved to London and built a career as a music, fashion and celebrity photographer. His work has appeared in Vogue (Mexico and Latin America), Ebony, GQ, Rolling Stone, the Advocate and Entertainment Weekly.
The exhibition also includes 40 kiosk posters, on view in downtown San Francisco.
IF YOU GO
OUTspoken: Portraits of LGBTQ Luminaries
Where: City Hall, ground floor and North Light Court, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, S.F.
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; closes Sept. 11
Contact: (415) 554-6080, www.sfartscommission.org