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Howard Schatz : Kink – The Folsom Street Fair


Archives  – November 24, 2017

About 25 years ago, American photographer Howard Schatz and author Beverly J. Ornstein went to drop off some film from a previous day’s shoot at a lab in the commercial area south of Market Street in San Francisco. There they encountered an astonishing scene of what seemed to be thousands of people, many in elaborate costumes and makeup, and some totally or nearly naked: men and women (though precise gender was, with some, not easy to determine) taking part in a theatrical world of countless fantasies.

The Folsom Street Fair is held every year in San Francisco on the last Sunday in September, celebrating the world of kink and bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM), and gathers about 500 000 people. The encounter that day in 1991 became the trigger for a serious photographic exploration now spanning a quarter century. Schatz rented an exhibitor’s space at the fair, built an outdoor studio and made portraits of attendees year after year. These portraits are the creative, intriguing, amazing and sometimes shocking result of his exploration.

“There were at least as many onlookers as there were participants, the spectators and the enthusiastic revelers clearly a match made in heaven,” says Schatz. “A spirit of joy permeated the atmosphere, created by happy people, many apparent friends, content, in their chains and bridles, leather chaps, vinyl, straps and whips, to be in a place where what, in another context, might be called “outrageous” was the norm. Like other onlookers, I watched, amazed. I am blessed (though sometimes it can be almost a curse) with an insatiable curiosity about people. In all sorts of situations, I find myself wanting to know everything. Seeing what I saw on Folsom Street that Sunday was enough for me to commit to a serious photographic exploration.”


Howard Schatz : Kink
Published by Lawrence Richard Publishing, Inc

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