FISCHER, Hal (1950 - )
Gay semiotics : a photographic study of visual coding among homosexual men
Los Angeles : Cherry and Martin, 2015. Quarto, lettered wrappers, pp. 56, illustrated. Second edition, the first edition published by NFS Press in San Francisco in 1977. As new copy, sealed in publisher’s shrinkwrap.
‘Hal Fischer’s Gay Semiotics: A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among Homosexual Men (1977) is one of the most important publications associated with California conceptual photography in the 1970s. The photographs in Gay Semiotics present the codes of sexual orientation and identification Fischer saw in San Francisco’s Castro and Haight Ashbury districts, ranging from such sexual signifiers as handkerchiefs and keys to depictions of the gay fashion “types” of that era — from “basic gay” to “hippie” and “jock.”
Gay Semiotics also features Fischer’s critical essay, which is marked by the same wry, anthropological tone found in the image/text configurations. Fischer’s book circulated widely, finding a worldwide audience in both the gay and conceptual art communities. Fischer’s insistence on the visual equivalence of word and image is 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.
First published as an artist’s book in 1978 by NFS Press, at a time when gay people had been forced to both evaluate and defend their lifestyles, Gay Semiotics earned substantial critical and public recognition. Thirty-seven years later, the book remains a proactive statement from a voice within the gay community from a moment in history just before the devastation wrought by AIDS.’
Scarce, a fine copy.
Fischer’s photographs from the Gay Semiotics series are currently on display (early 2020) at SFMOMA in Thought Pieces: 1970s Photographs by Lew Thomas, Donna-Lee Phillips and Hal Fischer.