Picture this: It’s the late ’70s and early ’80s, a time after the Stonewall riots but before the AIDS epidemic’s darkest days. In this brief window of time, there were pockets of gay paradise where exuberant LGBTQ life flourished, bursting forth in colorful celebrations of self-expression. San Francisco’s Castro District, New York’s Christopher Street and Fire Island, and Provincetown, Massachusetts were some of the best-known hotspots for this vibrant scene.

Nicholas Blair, a teenager drawn to San Francisco from New York via hitchhiking to Buenos Aires, found himself living in an arts commune just across town from the Castro. Armed with a Leica rangefinder camera loaned to him by a childhood friend, Blair captured the explosive LGBTQ culture that was quickly becoming the most visible counter-culture movement of the day. Blair’s stunning collection of portraits and street scenes are a breathtaking glimpse into a world of pent-up celebration and unrestrained joy as LGBTQ individuals leaned into newfound tolerance and embraced their authentic selves.

These images are particularly striking in the way they blend the hippie background of the era with the flamboyance of Pride Parades. It’s a striking reminder of how different movements can intersect and influence one another. Had it not been for the specter of AIDS hanging over these photographs, they could be seen as a parallel universe where LGBTQ individuals achieved full equality much sooner.

Nicholas Blair may have dropped out of high school in 1974, but he found his calling as a photographer and cinematographer, capturing cultural exploration on an international level. His photographs are now part of prestigious collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. With Jim Farber, a renowned cultural critic and writer, introducing Blair’s collection of photographs, it’s a captivating read that brings this lost era of gay paradise back to life.


Get your copy of “Castro to Christopher Gay Streets of America 1979–1986” published by powerHouse Books HERE!