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Posted on April 4, 2013 by Marco Maggetto

My generation grew up knowing that the party was just ended.  HIV was marking forever the life of many. The community was losing most of its illustrious master of ceremonies and people were sad, doing anything but feeling free as before . All that ” vida loca”, all that dancing, all that fast loving suddenly ended in  a tragedy largely covered by press and novels. The book “ Fire Island Pines. Polaroids 1975-1983”  by Tom Bianchi  goes back to the point whit a positive attitude: its a selection of snaps from the good happy days that were before panic. The history begins with Tom Bianchi buying a magazine in which is portrayed body builder Glenn Bishop,at the time, a famous gay icon. That photo was shooted in Fire Island, an exotic heaven to the eyes of young Tom. After  graduating Bianchi finds job at Paramount in New York and the very first summery weekend he took the Ferry.  He has nothing in mind but reaching the “paradise” where Bishop was hanging out and that place soon became second home. A place “out” of the country, an independent area, a free sex Republic where the community was living a happy parallel life. The following year Bianchi goes to a convention and receives a free Polaroid SX-70. The smart machine, at that time totally advant garde, becomes soon ones of his obsessions. He starts shooting  his secret paradise, his friends, parties, the beach. Everything. At one point, he is using so much film that he become the second largest consumer in the United States preceded only by IBM.

One day  a pr from Polaroid want to meet. Who is this guy that loves so much our product? A meeting after and free films are offered in order to go on and finish the F.I. Project and eventually publish a book. And that was not easy. Rejected by many publishers, not even Andy Warhol could manage to give birth to it, art directors were always delighted but marketing departments were not. And so on for years of refuses until the sad moment come in 1983 and Tom decide to close all his Polaroids in a box. Half of the persons in those pictures are dead, the community is destroyed, the project is too painful to bee published. Years after in opening that same box,  Bianchi re discovers all his friends, their smiles, their love for life and suddenly there is no pain. Everything is muted in good memories, and those memories of freedom have now a new light. Italian publisher Damiani support the process and get involved in the publishing of  “Fire Islands Polaroids 1975-1983”   on sale these days. The book is precious and very well done. It’s a statement  to brotherhood and humanity of various kind. It portrays  young tanned and beautiful men and that independent community accompanied by  nature, ships and docks, freaks and frocks. A book that deeply touched my cords, a text that made me laugh and cry,  a photographic memoir that will always have a place of honor on my bookshelf.

damiani editore bologna