“Uncanny Effects: Robert Giard’s Currents of Connection” Exhibition

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

poster for “Uncanny Effects: Robert Giard’s Currents of Connection” Exhibition
[Image: Robert Giard "Portrait of the Photographer" (1982) Silver gelatin print, 10 x 8 in. © the Estate of Robert Giard.]

This event has ended.

Uncanny Effects: Robert Giard’s Currents of Connection presents the work of photographer Robert Giard (1939-2002) and the archival records that surround his practice. On view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art from January 22 to April 19, the exhibition is curated by Assistant Curator Noam Parness and writer and artist Ariel Goldberg, and focuses on Giard’s image-making process spanning three decades. It provides a window into the often unseen practices of a photographer and points to connections that live in and outside of the image.

Giard, a white gay man from a working-class family in Connecticut, was a self-taught photographer who devoted himself to the medium after moving to Amagansett, New York, in the early 1970s. The genres of portrait, landscape, still-life, and the nude ran the course of his work, coalescing in his most well-known project, Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, for which he traveled across the country and documented over 600 LGBTQ authors. Starting in 1985, Particular Voices set out to create a visual archive, to give these writers visibility and to record their presence in our culture. He would continue making images and teaching photography up until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2002.

Deeply impacted by the loss of life due to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, Giard saw photography as a way to make a connection with and affirm people through a camera’s lens. Alongside selected portraits of iconic figures, including Jill Johnston, Vince Aletti, Arthur Tress, Carl Phillips, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Gloria Anzaldúa, Kevin Killian, Stormé De Larverié, Colin Robinson, and Sylvia Rivera, Uncanny Effects displays work from a variety of Giard’s photographic series, including a series of performative self-portraits and contemplative object studies, such as Grave of Oscar Wilde, Paris (1991). Moving in loose chronological order, the exhibition examines the critical overlap of genres and projects in Giard’s work; the “uncanny” of this show’s title celebrates the deeply idiosyncratic nature of visualizing queer life.

Giard’s deep investment in the complex and multifaceted process of portraiture is evidenced in his journaling practice, excerpts of which are on view in the exhibition. Beginning in 1985, when he began Particular Voices, Giard used his journal to meditate his sitters’ (and his own) mood and experiences, recording attractions, ambivalence, and resistance to the camera’s and his own gaze. The inclusion of his journaling practice in the exhibition underscores the centrality of his writing alongside his photography.

Together with the artist’s photographs, Uncanny Effects presents the cultural production of Giard’s sitters through books, film, audio recordings, and correspondence. Giard made images as a way to engage with queer literature, activism, and art. Uncanny Effects builds a narrative of Giard’s developing career through a range of archival records and personal effects—both his own and those of others—highlighting the slow, interpersonal networks that made his photography possible. On the deep intimacies present in Giard’s archive, Goldberg and Parness state, “With each image, contact sheet, correspondence, we invoke our attempt to regenerate his network, to notify those who are still living about our intent to include their image in Uncanny Effects. We want to pick up on conversations between Giard and those he photographed. We want to get in touch, to see how those people remember him and their experience of being photographed by him. We want to know how they relate to their image now.”

“We now live inside an image culture where queer and trans people have faster and easier access to visually documenting and sharing their lives with camera phones and social media,” Goldberg adds. “In exhibiting Giard’s analogue photographer’s practice, from journal entries to contact sheets to teaching notes and commercial gigs, we hope to reveal how much attentive contact and connectivity underscored Giard’s image-making.”



from January 22, 2020 to April 19, 2020

Opening Reception on 2020-02-08 from 14:00 to 18:00


Robert Giard

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