Sunday, October 6, 2013

Vintage Gay America: Crawford Barton

I almost passed by this image. It appears on first look to be a rather uninteresting scene of late 1970s New York or San Francisco. After looking a little closer and dwelling on the afternoon light illuminating the men, I decided to dig a little deeper. The glowing afternoon light gives these men the appearance of coming out into the light.

“I tried to serve as a chronicler, as a watcher of beautiful people - to feed back an image of a positive, likable lifestyle― to offer pleasure as well as pride.”

American photographer Crawford Barton (June 2, 1943 - June 10, 1993) chronicled the rise of gay culture in San Francisco from the late 1960s through the devastation brought on by HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. 

Barton's partner of 22 years, Larry Lara died of AIDS related illnesses shortly before Crawford Barton joined the overwhelming chorus of creative men dead from AIDS on June 10, 1993. It is estimated that more than 650,000 have died in the United States from this plague.

There are used copies of a book of Barton's work available on Amazon. The GLBT Historical Society in California holds all of Barton's papers and studio work. Here are a few of his images. Let them invite you into a world when the gay community was just waking up and discovering their own liberation.

Crawford Barton, 1943-1993
For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their Dog;Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.


  1. Great set of photos.The top photo, my favorite, of "The Badlands" is indeed San Francisco on 18th Street. Today Badlands is a video dance club.
    My next favorite is 535 Castro. While the two couples on the stairs are the focus, I see a set a stairs and dual doors behind them which were certainly former entrances to two Victorian residences (a duplex). Until recently, they were Vintage San Francisco. Today, they are gone and undergoing gentrification.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Joe. It's sad that so much of history is disappearing -- and am thankful that archives keep the memories alive through images such as these.