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Alvin Baltrop's Voyeurism: Sexual Perversity, Race, and the Historical Uses of Photography

General Programming

dateNovember 10, 2022 timeThursday, 5:00pm–6:30pm EST location Fayerweather Hall, Room 411, Columbia University
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Columbia Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities
B&W photograph of two people in an abandoned warehouse

Since the 2019 solo exhibition The Life and Times of Alvin Baltrop at the Bronx Museum, black gay photographer Alvin Baltrop, known for his portraits of the gay sexual subcultures and abandoned warehouses at New York's West Side Piers, has received increased scholarly and popular attention. However, Baltrop has been primarily discussed as a gay artist who focused on gay subcultures. Though Baltrop's race, class, gender, and sexuality shaped his artistry, few scholars have analyzed how these identity markers shaped his life and times. This talk explores how Baltrop's identification as a black gay voyeur shaped his artistic practice and life experiences in the 1970s. Since Baltrop viewed his photography as historical documentation of a fleeting gay subculture, the talk also considers how his voyeuristic approach to photography might intervene in the practice of queer history.


Darius Bost is Associate Professor of Black Studies and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the co-principal investigator of the Provost’s Initiative on the Racialized Body. He is also co-editor of Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. Bost is the author of the award-winning book, Evidence of Being: The Black Gay Cultural Renaissance and the Politics of Violence (University of Chicago Press, 2019).