We Are | Lisa Kanemoto

MAIN GALLERY | 6.25.09 – 7.31.09


This show is dedicated to the Memory of Mary Dunlap and her fight for Justice.

Twenty-five years after images from the photography publication ‘We Are…’ were featured on the cover of the gay community’s long-standing magazine The Advocate, and in the former Christopher Street magazine, and nearly 30 years since the project was initiated, rich portraits of San Francisco’s gay community in the early 1980’s are coming out of the closet. All shot from the perspective of a female heterosexual German immigrant, Lisa Kanemoto, the RayKo exhibition features over 25 black and white photographs evoking a sense of excitement, nostalgia, pure joy, intimacy, and even a bit of discomfort and glee for the fashion of the times.

With camera in hand during a San Francisco gay pride event in 1980, Kanemoto – who grew up in a small German town with, as she recalls, one known gay man about whom everyone whispered – began photographing a drag queen that she thought was silly and frivolous. He asked her why she was photographing him, introduced himself as Sister Missionary Delight, and the two engaged in a conversation that launched for Kanemoto both a long-standing friendship and the photographic series ‘We Are…’.

Kanemoto quickly realized after speaking with “Sister Missionary Delight” that her stereotyped assumptions about homosexuals were quite incorrect, and she felt compelled to share this knowledge with as many people as possible. What ensued was three years of meeting and photographing gays and lesbians, from rabbi’s to drag queens, non-profit workers to puppeteers, at their workplaces, homes, public events and local bars, in order to provide a balanced snapshot view into the broad spectrum of lives, livelihoods, and personalities comprising ‘gay’ San Francisco during the early 80’s. “I found myself meeting and falling in love with the people I photographed,” notes Kanemoto. “Even today, 30 years later, I am fortunate to be in contact with many. Actually, some of the men have become my best girlfriends. ”

The provoking and iconic images presented in ‘We Are…’ overflow with liberation. And as one observer noted, “The show is wrapped in nostalgia appeal, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. It captures the moment in time in which the gay rights movement blossomed, recalling both how different things became after that moment, and embodying the concept of a forgotten gem. ”