Take My Picture is a rich document of 1980s Black gay Chicago, curated by Juarez Hawkins. Long before the selfie phenomenon, a young Patric McCoy traveled around Chicago on his bicycle, always with his camera. Over a 10-year period, he shot thousands of images of Black men who asked to have their pictures taken. The Rialto Tap fed McCoy’s muse. The South Loop bar was one of the few places where Black men could socialize with, and seduce, other Black men. From drag queens to downtown professionals, the Rialto packed in men from all walks of life, providing a steady stream of subjects for McCoy and his camera.
Throughout the 80s, HIV/AIDS hit Black men especially hard. Thousands would die before the end of the decade, including many of McCoy’s friends, lovers, and subjects. Take My Picture becomes even more important as a marker of place, time, and memory. McCoy intended to fulfill an unspoken need for Black men to be seen.
In the following question excerpted from his interview with Wrightwood 659, McCoy reflects on his work:
Q: You said you didn’t realize there was such a hunger for black men to be photographed. Where do you think that desire came from?
McCoy: Well, it’s endemic. I think every individual has a hunger to be depicted in a recognizable and positive light. People want to see themselves and be represented. That’s why we go to museums to look at images. They help us reflect on who we are. The broader white society has had centuries of their images being represented and projected as important. But African Americans — we haven’t a long history of such; it’s really kind of new.
Take My Picture is one of three exhibitions on view at Wrightwood 659 in Chicago through July 15.
For more information, visit wrightwood659.org.
Exhibitions are presented by Alphawood Exhibitions at Wrightwood 659.