T H E P H O T O G R A P H Y O F D A N I E L N I C O L E T T A
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San Francisco based freelance photographer Dan Nicoletta was born in NYC in 1954. He began his career in 1975 as the assistant to the late Crawford Barton then staff photographer for the leading gay newsmagazine The Advocate. During that time, Nicoletta also worked in Harvey Milk’s camera store in the heart of the burgeoning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, mecca in San Francisco’s Castro district. He was directly involved in several of Milk’s political campaigns including Milk’s victorious election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as one of the first openly gay elected officials.
As a campaign worker, Nicoletta registered voters at street corners, participated in publicity stunts such as the human billboard where up to 30 workers would line up to greet commuter traffic with Milk campaign posters. He recalls leafleting bingo games in the Mission with Harvey Milk and participating in the get out the vote drive for both Milk and Moscone the future Mayor of San Francisco. He ran errands, answered phones and, as a trained photographer, was in a unique position to document this political activism from within.
For over thirty years since Harvey Milk's assassination in 1978, Daniel Nicoletta has continued to document the reverberations of Milk’s legacy serving as a key point person for LGBT civil rights and Milk related research.
For more on Harvey Milk, see the QAR Gallery: Harvey Milk, Second Sight
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In addition to having photo documented the Milk phenomena, Daniel Nicoletta is an accomplished portrait photographer. His photographic body of work maps his enduring romance with San Francisco and it’s people, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities he has chosen to celebrate in this QAR gallery. For the past 20 years, he has concentrated on creating studio portraits of individuals that populate the LGBT communities. In Nicoletta's own words:
"It is the theatrical in life that I am most attracted to. I am intrigued by what occurs when a sitter’s environment is minimized in a studio context, yielding to reliance upon the nuances of body language and attire. I believe a successful photographic portrait occurs when the human soul comes forward in a photograph and reveals itself for now and for all of time. It’s a privilege and a joy to be the conduit for this phenomenon."
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01. Studio neighbor John Edwards helping at 320 Fell Street with the renovation on the semi-circle in the floor where the old bakery vat used to be. Circa 1990.
02. Cockette Reggie’s memorial, June 2, 2001. The studio hosted many AIDS memorials during its ten year life. Reggie’s fellow Angels of Light and Cockettes gathered to remember him in song and speech and community.
03. John Burnside and Harry Hay, August 17, 2000. John and Harry visited the studio for a sitting for publicity photos for a documentary film about Harry Hay’s life: Hope Along The Wind – Harry Hay. Harry was a founder of the Mattachine Society and he and John were founders of the Radical Faeries.
04. Gabriel Cano, January 31, 1992.
05. Steven LeMay, 1999, performer and designer extraordinaire and Proprietress of the fabulous San Francisco vintage store Retro Fit.
06. Javier and Francisco Sanchez, 1994. Spanish born dancers formerly with the Dusseldorf Ballet and later the Frieiderichstadt Palast (Berlin’s State sponsored epic Vegas style review). Javier and Francisco are now choreographers in Berlin. I have photographed them for nearly two decades.
07. Miss Kitty aka Dan Jones, November 26, 1991. Kitty was a celebrated and cherished International drag performer and painter, known most notably for his band Miss Kitty and the cut up Recipes, a favorite at San Francisco’s underground cult club of the 90's – Club Uranus.
08. Miss Kitty, aka Dan Jones, August 6, 1994. Miss Kitty’s homage to living with HIV. Styling by Scott Pimintel, Makeup by Juliet White, Hair by Deena Davenport, Massage by Sistar. Kitty died March 12, 1995.
09. Sister X-tacy Marie Collette, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, July 18, 1993, aka John Chidester. John died September 23, 1993.
10. Barbara and Ian Liu – McDowell, January 16, 2000. Wedding portrait.
11. Wilder, April 10, 1999. Homage to the Village People.
12. Michael Cameron Benbrook (aka Ruby Begonia Bidet) and Chris March, October 28, 1995. Michael and Chris were Glamazons and designers extraordinaire. Michael died July 31, 2003. Chris just published in 2010 a book of his stellar work as a hair and costume designer titled: I Heart Chris March.
13. Lypsinka, May 21, 1997. Living Icon/Goddess.
14. Charles Busch, August 15, 1994. Playright and Star of silver screen and stage.
15. Michael Cameron Benbrook (aka Ruby Begonia Bidet), February 19, 1995.
16. Stafford, July 21, 1991. Make up by Jake. Stafford is a designer, model and Founder of FTM International.
17. Rex Cameron, October 22, 1996. Rex is a portrait photographer famous for his seminal documentation of the transgender community.
18. LZ Love, July 25, 1990. LZ is an incredible performer and singer and was a protégé and back up singer of the late disco Superstar Sylvester.
19. David Nemoyten as Mad Magda, November 16, 1995. David was proprietress of the favored bohemian café in San Francisco's Hayes Valley – Mad Magda’s Mystic Russian Tea Room which closed in the late 90’s.
20. Quartkneee, September 19, 1990. Quartkneee was an early rave culture pioneer on the scene at Toone Town etc. as DJ, go go dancer and man about town.
21. Tattoo Mike Wilson's hands, September 23, 1985. Mike was a model and performer and Coney Island Sideshow by the Sea’s tattooed wonder. Mike died August 3, 1996.
22. Tattoo Mike Wilson and Bradley Russo and Sluggo, December 23, 1990.
23. Tattoo Mike Wilson, September 23, 1985.
24. Glenn Low A Chee, April 20, 2010.
25. Scott Calverhouse, January 2, 2009. Scott is wearing a South East Asian death mask from the Island of East Timor, ritualistically placed on war dead prior to the corpse's beheading.
26. Lief Erickson, January 18, 2009.
27. Winston Tong, 1978. Winston is an Obie award winning performance artist and was a front man for prolific and innovative new wave band Tuxedomoon.
28. Victoria Lowe and Winston Tong, 1978. Victoria was with The Angels of Light Theatre Company and she and Winston were lead singers of Tuxedomoon.
29. Randall Denham and Constance West in The Angels of Light acclaimed show Holy Cow, May 16, 1980.
30. Tony Angel and Tommy Pace in The Angels of Light show Holy Cow, May 16, 1980.
31. The Thrillpeddlers revival of the Cockettes show - Pearls Over Shanghai, December 5, 2009, l to r: Jef Valentine, Corinne Levy, Lanny Baugniet, Kara Emry, Morningwood, Russell Blackwood.
32. Wolf, April 25, 2009.
For Additional QAR photographs by Daniel Nicoletta, see:
The Art Jackets of Bill Bowers: www.queer-arts.org/bowers/nicoletta/
Compiled by Michael Pinatelli and Lionel A. Biron
August 5, 2010
Nicoletta's website: www.dannynicoletta.com
All images shown: Daniel Nicoletta © 2010. All rights reserved.
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