Robert Giard | Remembering Stonewall through Gay Sites & Portraits

Reading Room 15 June - 27 July 2019 
Reading Room

Exhibition Dates: June 15 – July 27, 2019

Opening Reception: June 27, 2019, 5-8pm


In commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the Stephen Bulger Gallery is pleased to present a selection of photographs by Robert Giard (b. 1939, Hartford, USA; d. 2002, Chicago, USA) in the Reading Room. Throughout his career, Giard visited and photographed hundreds of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals involved in creative and political arenas. Over the years, his portraits have become iconic views of many of these important figures. In the 1980s and 1990s, Giard also photographed sites in North America and abroad important to the LGBTQ+ community. This exhibition combines a selection of portraits to serve as a reminder of the people who represented this community through a pivotal stage, with a group of images from his “Gay Sites” series which memorialize the places of their action, as well as formal monuments.  


Giard was an American photographer best known for his broad survey of contemporary American gay and lesbian literary figures created over a period of two decades. He majored in English literature and received a B.A. from Yale University, and an M.A. in comparative literature from Boston University. Giard came to the practice of photography relatively late. By 1972, entirely self-taught, he began to photograph, concentrating on landscapes of the South Fork of Long Island, portraits of friends, many of them artists and writers in the region, and the nude figure.


Ultimately, Giard’s career made its most indelible mark in the area of portraiture. In 1985, after seeing a performance of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart dealing with the crisis of AIDS in the gay community, Giard was moved by a sense of urgency. He decided that he would put his talents as a photographer to use for other gay men and lesbians “by recording something of note about our experience, our history, and our culture”. Synthesizing his life-long interest in literature and his interest and involvement in gay issues, Giard set about documenting in straightforward, unadorned, yet sometimes witty and playful portraits, a wide survey of significant literary figures, as well as brash new writers on the scene.


A selection of these portraits, culled from the five hundred examples he had already amassed, was published by MIT Press in 1997 as the anthology Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, and served as the companion volume to the New York Public Library’s 1998 exhibition of the same name. Broadly documenting the flowering of gay and lesbian academic writing, fiction, poetry, and playwrighting, his collection of portraits included celebrated figures such as Edward Albee, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrienne Rich, as well as emerging novelists making their first mark, such as Sapphire, David Leavitt, Shay Youngblood, and Michael Cunningham.


Robert Giard was the recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Best Photography/Art Book in 1997 for his publication of Particular Voices. Examples of his work reside in collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum, the San Francisco Public Library, the Schlesinger Library in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, and the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Giard’s images can also be frequently found in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Harpers, and New York Magazine.


At the time of his death in July 2002, Giard was completing a portrait documentation of over three hundred grant recipients of The Thanks Be to Grandmother Winifred Foundation around the country, which until 2001 supported a broad array of projects by women fifty-four years and older that benefited other women. In 2005, Crones’ Cradle Conserve Press published The Grandmother Winifred Journals: 1996-2002 which included over 250 images of the Foundation grantees accompanied by Giard’s diary entries documenting each session.


In 2004, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University acquired the Giard Archive, including one copy of every image he produced during his lifetime, as well as all of his papers — correspondence, workbooks, diaries, and research materials.