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Photography Tue Jun 08 2010

San Francisco in the 1970's: Photographs by Jerry Pritikin, at Gage Gallery

Jerry Pritikin, gay rights activist and photographer, has experienced a tumultuous chapter of U.S. history and lived to tell about it. San Francisco in the 1970's is the title of his photography exhibit at Gage Gallery, as well as a simple explanation for the framework of his life as a gay man.

Not only was Pritikin out in a time when, despite hippie love culture, homosexuality was not embraced by the public- he was also living in the heart of the gay rights movement that was fronted by friend and neighbor, Harvey Milk. Milk, who served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for 11 months before being assassinated, owned the photography shop that Pritikin used to develop his photographs. The photography shop also served as a central landmark in the Castro district in San Francisco -- a community that fronted the gay rights movement in California.

Pritikin's position in this historical time would presumably allow for dramatic and moving photographs. The Gage Gallery exhibit however, seems to rely more heavily on the movie version of the story, Milk, as an ongoing video presents clips from the 2008 film, staring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. Although interspersed with actual footage and interviews of the real Harvey Milk and those around him, the reliance on a previous interpretation of the events that Pritikin's claims to capture is disappointing and distracting.

His photographs are attractive and inviting -- some are quite thought-provoking -- but others are potentially irrelevant without labeled explanations. Crowds of people at the San Francisco gay pride parade should make for an intriguing group, but often there is no focal point of interest -- besides an occasional nude.

One image provides a unique perspective of an outsider looking in on the activities of the gay rights movement. This photograph presents an old man, staring out a bus window. He is watching a tricycle race that is part of the parade, and the photograph begs the viewer to find both judgment and intrigue in his eyes. Maybe if asked, he would condemn the blatant homosexuality that was being paraded in the streets -- but maybe he wouldn't.

The events that are documented in this series of photographs are of huge significance to every American who believes in equal rights for all. Although I did not find the majority of the images particularly captivating, I did get a better feel for this time and place in our country, and the increased awareness that this show instills is well worth it.

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Jerry Pritikin / June 9, 2010 2:45 AM

Hi Britany, Thanks for reporting on my exhibit... if for no other reason... I am extremely proud to be exhibiting at the Gage.Their "Mission Statement" is Social Justice. These images represented just a fraction of over 3,000 images in my Collection. Although the clip of the Milk movie is there... frankly because of that movie, millions of people, young and old,gay and straight, here in America and around the world have been introduced that era and Harvey Milk. We wanted to show some images that make people think, and also laugh. I believe the image of the airplane towing the sign CATCH A FRISBEE-NOT VD is very important... In the 70's we all had the feeling we would live for ever... yet just years later
in the early 1980s... came AIDS. And quite a few of those in my photos die from AIDS.Also for historic purposes... the image of Harvey Milk, that's the main poster...
also is a footnote in gay history. It was a time long before the WWW,and the wire services seldom had stories about the gay community.

That image introduced Harvey Milk,nationally, 5 months before he was elected as the first openly gay male from a major city. Because this is a gallery, my memorabilia was not part of the exhibit... and I have a lot of thought provoking
stories to go with letters, brochures and T-shirts of that era... Like the one I created ANITA BRYANT HUSBAND IS A HOMO SAPIEN! T-shirt that I made the UPI Wire Service and I outed myself nationally at a time it was not yet fashionable to do so, even in San Francisco! I would like to recommend a web-site, that is like my photos
and unlike the Milk movie(a recreation).It is
and you can find some of mine there too listed under my name.

Jerry Pritikin / June 10, 2010 7:57 PM

The "Milk" movie IS A RECREATION, my images are the real thing... at the exact moment it happened... MINE ARE THE REAL HISTORIC DOCUMENT... and not my interpretation of actual events!

It is said, that the way to find a intellectual , was to play the whole William Tell Overture, from beginning to end... and if that person did not think of the Lone Ranger once, he was a real intelectual!

I would like to find a reviewer, who can look at all 39 photographs for my exhibit, one after the other, and not to think of Sean Penn, one to make their interpretation of my images.

Roi / June 10, 2010 9:26 PM

I highly recommend readers ignore the review from this naive critic.
From her sophmoric atttempt at acting knowledgeable she only exposes herself to having a lack of understanding. Not wanting to be harse on her, as it is obvious people who saw the exhibition in a light she could have no sense of, she blundered her way through the inept results. Sometimes those who can't , critique.

Chris / June 10, 2010 10:05 PM

Jerry, if you want people to look at your work and not think of Sean Penn, perhaps you shouldn't show clips from the movie.

It seems to me that the reviewer is trying to evaluate the photos from an aesthetic perspective, beyond their historic importance. They may be fine historic documents, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're great photos as art.

jerry Pritikin / June 10, 2010 10:15 PM

2 important factors... I gave the director complete control on the images for the show, and as I explained... he put that clip in at the last moment. However, the fact is that millions of people were introduced to Harvey Milk, via the film.The film had mistakes in it... but it was not a documentary. But people young and old, gay and straight, here in the USA, and around the world know of Harvey Milk, based on the movie. I would like to recommend a great web-site that is dedicated to the evolution of the Castro neighborhood,including sports and politics of that era in the gay rights movement. It is not a recreation like the movie... but has photographs and stories of real events by the pioneers who were residing in the Castro during the late 60's and 1970s. It is

Whitney / June 11, 2010 7:19 PM

Roi, I think Britany does a exemplary job reviewing the show as an outsider. She never claims to be an expert on the gay rights movement but gives an easy-to-understand history of the movement. And never claims to be a photographer, which I guess is what you are arguing when you say those who can't, critique? (ironically coming from someone critiquing this article). I think Britany's intention was to give a simple overview of the show so viewers have an idea of what to expect and she accomplished this. I wouldn't mind hearing a single example of why you think her writing is naive, inept, sophomoric, or blundering.

Jerry Pritikin / June 12, 2010 1:43 PM

Britany, It's me again... with my last observation. While your review spent some time mentioning that my exhibit was relying on the "Milk" movie version, then why did you link the movie to your review, also? I do like constructive criticism... when
it concerns me.
At 73, I realize
there are choices
when forming an opinion or impression. However, sometimes first impressions aren't always right.

Britany / June 12, 2010 2:29 PM


I appreciate that you've taken the time to respond to my review. This type of discussion is an important part of art criticism and I welcome comments to my writing, the good and the bad (Hi there Roi) in the same way that artists should welcome criticism of their work.

I provide links to just about anything that can provide further information on the work I am referring to. I believe the movie Milk had a strong presence in your exhibit, and since I mentioned that thought in my review- I wanted readers who may not be familiar with the movie, to look into it and understand my reference.

Jerry Pritikin / June 12, 2010 11:00 PM

Britany, You state that The Gage Gallery exhibit seems to rely more heavily on the movie version of the story, Milk, and that is completely off the mark... it's
has nothing to do with my images ,,,and your last line"reliance on a previous interpretation of the events that Pritikin's claims to capture is disappointing and distracting". I FIND IT DISTRACTING,TOO... it is in your review, and has nothing to do with my Exhibit of historic gay images... that Focus Films relied on, to set the stage for their movie, and not the other way around . HOWEVER... IT IS YOUR LINK TO THE MOVIE... NOT THE CLIPS OF INTERVIEWS LIKE WE HAVE AT THE GAGE GALLERY EXHIBIT. YOU ASK YOUR READERS TO USE FOR REFERENCE TO THAT ERA. I WANT PEOPLE TO COME TO THE EXHIBIT AND MAKE UP THEIR OWN MIND HOW TO VIEW IT AND FOR THEM TO INTERPRET. Then you end your review with the following: I provide links to just about anything that can provide further information on the work I am referring to. I believe the movie Milk had a strong presence in your exhibit, and since I mentioned that thought in my review- I wanted readers who may not be familiar with the movie, to look into it and understand my reference.

Is this not what we were doing at the Gage? You never did respond to my question about your age... no need to know exactly... but what eras have influence on your writings... about subjects like me... who prefer that "reviewers" when reviewing me... take the time to statements about me, or my photographs... and no one else. If you want... I would meet with you... and give you a better
idea of the stories behind my images... then those depicted in the recreation of events... and I was an eye witness. Not to the Movie, but as the best years of my life.

Jerry Pritikin / August 6, 2010 10:46 AM

This is the last week of my exhibit at the Gage Gallery. With the exception of this review... all others helped to make it a very successful event.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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