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Feb. 29, 2012


New Photography Exhibition at GLBT History
Museum Focuses on History of AIDS Activism 


San Francisco -- A new exhibition at The GLBT History Museum, "Life and Death in Black and White: AIDS Direct Action in San Francisco, 1985-1990," focuses on the work of five queer photographers who documented the emergence of militant AIDS activism in San Francisco through the medium of black-and-white film. With sharp focus and deep compassion, they turned their lenses on their own community, capturing sorrow and outrage, courage and wit, a fierce will to live and a deep commitment to honor the dying and remember the dead.


The exhibition features the work of Jane Philomen Cleland, Patrick  Clifton, Marc Geller, Rick Gerharter and Daniel Nicoletta. Some of their images of AIDS activism have become iconic; others have never before been publicly displayed. All of them portray civil disobedience as a response to discrimination, indifference and official neglect in the face of a fatal epidemic. All bear forceful witness to a time when San Francisco experienced both some of its darkest hours and one of its most inspiring movements for social justice.


"Life and Death in Black and White" is curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi. The exhibition will be open March 5 through July 1, 2012, in the front gallery of The GLBT History Museum at 4127 18th St. in San Francisco. A public reception with the photographers and curators is set for Thursday, March 15, 7:00-9:00 p.m.  


Admission to the exhibition and the reception is included in the price of museum tickets: $5.00 (general); $3.00 (California students with ID); free for members. The museum is open Monday and Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 5 p.m.; closed Tuesday. For more information, visit or call (415) 621-1107.   


About the GLBT History Museum


The GLBT History Museum features two major exhibitions: In the main gallery, a long-term show titled "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating San Francisco's GLBT His­tory" and in the front gallery, periodically changing the­matic shows. The front gallery also offers timely one-case exhibits shown for one to two months and a permanent display of belongings of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected of­ficial in California, who was assassinated in 1978.  


The museum is a project of the GLBT Historical Society, a research center and archives founded in 1985 that houses one of the world's largest collections of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical materials. For more information, visit  



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EDITOR'S NOTE: The following photograph from "Life and Death in Black and White" may be reproduced free of charge exclusively in conjunction with coverage of the exhibition. The photographer must be credited as noted in the caption. For a higher resolution file and for additional photos from the exhibition, contact Gerard Koskovich at [email protected]     

ACT UP Protest at Sixth International AIDS Conference (1990)
"No More Words, We Want Action"; Closing Session of the Sixth
International Conference on AIDS, San Francisco, June 24, 1990.
Photograph by Patrick Clifton (reproduced with permission)

About the Photographers


Following are brief biographies of the photographers included in "Life and Death in Black and White: AIDS Direct Action in San Francisco, 1985-1990": 


Jane Philomen Cleland is a lesbian photojournalist who has documented the Bay Area LGBT community since the late 1980s. Her images have been published in the Bay Area Reporter since 1990. Her photos also have appeared in books, films and periodicals including Time, Rolling Stone and The Times of London. In 2002, she collaborated with Cathy Cade to create a widely shown exhibition and video about the San Francisco Dyke March. Cleland also has exhibited at the San Francisco Art Institute and other venues. Her work is represented in the permanent collection of the GLBT Historical Society.


Patrick Clifton refers to his images from the late 1980s and early 1990s as the work of an "activist photographer." He was involved in the San Francisco queer scene from 1986 to 1991, after which he moved to Thailand. His work was published in the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Sentinel, Spin and the Windy City Times in 1990, but his archive from the period has otherwise been little seen. Clifton returned to San Francisco five years ago and now teaches at Bayhill High School in the East Bay. His photographs in this show are the first to appear in a gallery or museum. Several publicly accessible albums of Clifton's work are available via his Facebook profile


Marc Geller has been active as a photographer in San Francisco since 1976. His work has been widely published in the gay and general-distribution press, including OUT Magazine, The Advocate and The New York Times. His photographs are included in many books and anthologies including Jerome: After the Pageant (1996), Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement (1995) and Out in America: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian Life (1994). Geller's work is represented in the permanent collection of the GLBT Historical Society. To visit his website, click here


Rick Gerharter has documented the queer communities of San Francisco for nearly 25 years. He is regularly published in the Bay Area Reporter and other periodicals. His work also has been reproduced in books including Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism (2006); Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area (1996); Witness the Love: Stories from the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic (1996); and numerous Lonely Planet travel guides. The GLBT Historical Society sponsored an exhibition of his work, "Capturing the Moment," in 2006. To visit his website, click here


Daniel Nicoletta has been active as a photographer in San Francisco since 1974. His images have appeared widely in the press and in books, including The Mayor Of Castro Street (1982) and MILK: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk (2009), as well as in galleries, including featured exhibitions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Nicoletta's work is represented in the permanent collections of the GLBT Historical Society; the San Francisco Public Library; The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley; the New York Public Library; and the Schwules Museum in Berlin. To visit his website, click here 


About the Curators


Following are brief biographies of the curators for "Life and Death in Black and White":


Gerard Koskovich is an independent scholar, editor and antiquarian book dealer; he is a founding member of the GLBT Historical Society.


Don Romesburg is an assistant professor of women's and gender studies at Sonoma State University, Sonoma, Calif.


Amy Sueyoshi is an associate professor of race and resistance studies and sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. She currently serves as cochair of the board of the GLBT Historical Society.