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Focus on the 70s: The Fabulous Photography of Kenn Duncan

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There is currently an amazing photography exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Louis B. Cullman Center. Focus on the 70s: The Fabulous Photography of Kenn Duncan presents 400 photographs from across Duncan's career. Kenn Duncan---who was a champion roller-skater and professional dancer before picking up the camera---worked predominantly for Dance Magazine and After Dark, which had a prominent following in the 1970s gay community. Duncan, who died in 1986, photographed a wide range of 1970s celebrities---and unknowns---in dance, theatre, and film. His subjects included: Warhol drag superstar Candy Darling; divas like Bette Midler, Eartha Kitt, and Twiggy; LGBT performers like Sal Mineo, Lily Tomlin (pictured above), Harvey Fierstein, and Ian McKellan; masculine icons like Joe Dallesandro, Brad Davis, and Joe Namath; as well as cast shots for shows from Hair to The Wiz to Oh! Calcutta!

In the words of the exhibition's curator, Robert Taylor "Ken Duncan's camera captured the decade of the carefree 70s. It's been said that if you remember the 70s, then you weren't really there and, yes, the decadence did seem pervasive. But through Kenn Duncan's lens, everything was beautiful." This is what grabbed me seeing the show---everyone is just so gorgeous and real. In a strange way the work is reminiscent of Andy Warhol in its insistence that anyone can be a superstar.

On September 25th at 6pm Patrick Pacheco will give a talk and slide show "Before Out was In: Life After Dark with Arnold, Bette, the Baths, and the Boys." Pacheco, who was a writer for After Dark, will remind us of the gay milieu that Duncan moved through and recorded.

More of Duncan's work can be seen in his published collections Red Shoes, Nudes, More Nudes, and DIVAS! The Fabulous Photography of Kenn Duncan, which is forthcoming from Rizzoli in October.

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