A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among Homosexual Men
Publisher: Cherry and Martin
Gay Semiotics is one of the first conceptual works to bring the language of structuralism and linguistics into photographic practice. First seen in Hal Fischer’s 1977 exhibition at San Francisco’s Lawson de Celle Gallery, Gay Semiotics presents the codes of sexual orientation and identification Fischer saw in San Francisco’s Castro and Haight Ashbury districts as a tongue-in-cheek anthropological essay. Twenty-four photographs—with text printed into the photographs—are codified as “Archetypal Media Images,” “Signifiers, “Street Fashion, and “Fetish.”
One of the key artworks associated with 1970s California conceptual photography, Gay Semiotics is marked in particular by Fischer’s insistence on the visual equivalence of word and image. The use of words as pictures—in additional to providing textual content—is one of conceptual photography’s most important contributions to art today and a hallmark of the loose Photography and Language group that included Fischer, Lutz Bacher, Lew Thomas and others working in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Published “at a time when gay people have been forced to both evaluate and defend their lifestyles,” Gay Semiotics is a proactive statement from a voice within the gay community.