Baltimore Portraits

Baltimore Portraits

Book Pages: 112 Illustrations: 80 b&w photographs Published: May 1999

Author: Amos Badertscher

Contributor: Tyler Curtain

Art and Visual Culture > Photography, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

Baltimore Portraits is a unique presentation of photographs by Amos Badertscher. These portraits—many accompanied by poignantly revealing, hand-written narratives about their subjects—represent a sector of Baltimore that has gone largely unnoticed and rarely has been documented. In this volume, the assemblage of images of bar and street people—transvestites, strippers, drug addicts, drag queens, and hustlers—spans a twenty-year period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Badertscher’s arresting and melancholy photographs document a culture that has virtually disappeared due to substance abuse, AIDS, and, often, societal or family neglect.

The photographer’s focus on content rather than on elaborate technique reveals the intensely personal—and, indeed, autobiographical—nature of his portraits. Their simplicity along with the text’s intimacy affects the viewer in ways not easily forgotten. An introduction by Tyler Curtain contextualizes the photographs both within the history of Baltimore and its queer subculture and in relationship to contemporaneous work by photographers Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Duane Michaels, and others. Curtain also positions the underlying concerns of Bardertscher’s art in relation to gay and lesbian cultural politics.

This striking collection of portraits, along with the photographer’s moving text, will impact not only a general audience of photographers and enthusiasts of the art but also those engaged with gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, and cultural studies in general. It is published in association with the Duke University Museum of Art.


“A brilliantly disturbing collection of photographs. . . . It is a hard, frequently painful experience to tour Badertscher’s Baltimore; this is not your mother’s Best of Life Magazine. There is very little triumph here, and a great deal of human tragedy, at least to anyone living a comfortable middle-class existence. However, it is a very important tour to take. No one, after looking at these photographs, will feel quite the same about his or her ‘privileged’ world again.” — , A&U Magazine

“Badertscher is clearly performing the necessary task of chronicling a constantly threatened American subculture. This chronicle often takes the form of a narrative and visual tribute to people who are proudly and flamboyantly off-center. The photographs imply a collaborative quest between artist and subject for the pose and gesture that will most symbolically reveal a personality—or more specifically, reveal the anger, humor, morbidity, despair, lostness, shyness, hunger, creepiness, fearfulness, confusion, and elegance of that personality. . . . Integral to the conceptual life of the photographs are the text inscriptions that underlie and sometimes surround them. . . . [T]hey complicate and humanize the photographer, who, by providing the details of lives . . . as well as brief psychological evaluations, exclamatory tributes, and poetic epitaphs, serves the role of a village historian whose act of remembering tenders the gift of recognition to those who have been denied any significant portion of the public space. . . . Before our eyes, before Badertscher’s eyes, appreciation has turned into memorial. This is indeed a complicated work.” — , Independent Weekly

“Badertscher’s work . . . helps enlarge our sympathies as human beings. By any definition, that is art of a high order.” — , Baltimore Gay Paper

“In Baltimore Portraits, photographer and Baltimore native Amos Badertscher gives us a view of ‘Charm City’ through a lens that crosses Diane Arbus with Robert Mapplethorpe. . . . The beautifully composed and printed black and white portraits contrast the grim lives of people on the margins—young street hustlers, prostitutes, and drug users—with a few local underground celebrities, drag queens, and self-portraits thrown in to soften the blow. . . . The images in Baltimore Portraits appear to be reality in its purest form.” — Washington Blade

Baltimore Portraits is a rich and stark picture of community: as beautiful as it is ugly, as depressing as it is joyful, as lean as it is full. Badertscher’s photographs and their scrawling inscriptions are telling stories that we long to hear (or not hear) but rarely get. By picturing the unpictured, by writing the unsaid, our expectations are meaningfully betrayed.” — Carol Mavor, author of Pleasures Taken: Performances of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs

“These images of many of the denizens of Baltimore’s gay ‘underground’ in the 1970s are often deeply disturbing. The literal nakedness of many of the subjects provides only a minimal index of how painfully exposed and vulnerable some of them are. I feel grateful to Amos Badertscher for having produced and preserved these images, and to Tyler Curtain for the responsive generosity of his vision of them.” — Michael Moon, author of A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol


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Price: $39.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Amos Badertscher, a self-taught photographer, has had his work exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in Los Angeles and New York. In 1998, Badertscher, acollection of the artist’s photography was published by St. Martin’s Press. His work is included in several anthologies and is the subject of many published articles.

Tyler Curtain is a Visiting Scholar in the English Department at Duke University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreward / Michael P. Mezzatesta x

Preface / Amos Badertscher xii

A Baltimore Essay: Photograpahy, Sexuality, Community / Tyler Curtain 1

Baltimore Portraits / Amos Badertscher 13
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2368-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2334-1
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