Hal Fischer takes photographs with the same unrehearsed elegance with which his subjects dress. His images of gay men in 1970s San Francisco are soft and palatable, filled with gentle smiles and sculpted abs. Many wouldn’t look amiss in a well-orchestrated, woke campaign for a denim brand today.
But it’s exactly the ease with which Fischer’s images hit the eye that gives them their subversive edge. They document a brief historical juncture where gay culture in America didn’t have to defend itself against the knee jerk vitriol of the AIDS crisis or the homonormative assimilation that followed. There is no evidence of shame or fear in his subjects, only a care-free sensuality made possible by a sexual counterculture that could flow as smoothly as the straight mainstream without seeking assimilation. Ordinariness is not an aspiration in these pictures, but something present.
This is especially evident in Cheap Chic Homo (1979), a sequence of five images of a friend’s everyday outfits, annotated with banal details about their provenance and price. This playful conceit is only so far from a get-the-look feature in a glossy weekly, something that doesn’t demand much from its reader but is nevertheless satisfyingly complete. Fischer’s chic homo smirks in most of the photos and the series is evidently the result of shared pleasure, two men making up a new kind of normal.