These intimate photographs of a group of gay men together at a beach house from the pre-Stonewall era were likely never intended to be seen: hidden away for years and badly damaged.
June 28, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an event widely considered to have sparked the beginning of the gay rights movement. That night in 1969 when police crashed through the doors of the Stonewall Inn in New York, the lesbians, gays, transgender people, and drag queens refused to go quietly, literally fighting back and imprisoning the police within the bar they had come to shut down. This rebellion against long-standing oppression and authority began to shine a light on the queer community, initiating a shift towards visibility and liberation. In this exhibition Jonah Samson has printed a collection of black-and-white negatives discovered on eBay. These intimate photographs of a group of gay men together at a beach house from the pre-Stonewall era were likely never intended to be seen: hidden away for years and badly damaged. Encased in red boxes, as if in their own private darkroom, these images are now able to shine like jewels.
“What is not certain, absolutely certain, that night prevents what day permits, for those who know how to go about it, who have the will to go about it, and the strength, the strength to try again.
Yes, it will be night, the mist will clear.”
Jonah Samson is a self-taught artist with a long history of working with photography. His exhibition, Another Happy Day at Presentation House, Vancouver (2013) was listed as one of the Top Ten shows that year by Canadian Art magazine. The book that accompanied the exhibition was listed by the New Yorker as one of the top releases at the New York Art Book Fair. A second book with Presentation House, Yes Yes We’re Magicians was awarded 2nd Place by the Alcuin Society National Book Design Awards. Other exhibitions include Every Exit is an Entrance Somewhere Else at Macaulay Fine Art, Vancouver (2016); the Musée Eugène Leroy, France (2012); Otherworldly at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2011) and Unearthed at Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in the U.K. (2010) among several others. Samson lives on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.