Photo-Documenting the Lost Landscape of Lesbian Nightclubs in New York City | Gwen Shockey & Karen Loew

Photo-Documenting the Lost Landscape of Lesbian Nightclubs in New York City | Gwen Shockey & Karen Loew

This photo essay, with accompanying text, examines overlooked gathering spaces used by lesbian and queer female-identified individuals in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens between the years 1925 and 2018. The ‘fa├žade portraits’ of buildings illustrate the often ephemeral nature of the clandestine communities that once congregated within them. The vast majority of these extant sites no longer function as lesbian gathering places, having been closed by attrition, usurped by alternative community-making tools such as social media and dating apps, or forced to relocate due to market forces. The photos reflect the challenge of putting down spatial roots at a time when 21st-century freedoms would seem to allow the public, permanent presence of queer women as never before. In the face of this process of obsolescence, Shockey’s photographs serve as a form of documentation and preservation of a once place-based heritage. The photo essay and accompanying text interrogate the meaning of these historic spaces regarding how they pertain to members of the lesbian and queer-female community in a digital era.

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