Once On This Island
By Tim Murphy
More than 25 years later, Bianchi showed the Fire Island images to Rich Young, who owns Palm Springs' Exposure Gallery. Thirty of the 1970s images now hang at the gallery in an ongoing exhibit, and more are at ExposuReps.com. Bianchi says he's back in talks to have the images collected in a book. He lost touch with many of the men in the pictures but estimates that more than half of them have since died of AIDS.
'I remember sitting down with a friend on the beach,' he recalls. 'He said, 'My three best friends are dying right now. I can't take it.' ' Bianchi erupts into sobs. 'He didn't make it either. The sun was shining, and you'd walk by a house where all six people had died the previous winter. I kept a prayer list, but when I got to 200 I had to stop.'
Yet when he looks at the images now, they don't sadden him but elate him. 'I can't help but be captivated by the sense of joy that's so evident,' he says. 'That's what Fire Island was then -- a fabulous party that nurtured us and sent us back out into the world as happier men. It's very important for me to tell this story.'