Photography by Crawford Barton
Born in 1943 and raised in fundamentalist community in rural George, Crawford Barton, a shy and introspective boy, escaped family tensions when he received a small art scholarship at the University of Georgia. After his first love for a man was unreciprocated, he returned at the end of the first semester to the family farm. Barton enrolled, at the age of twenty-one, in an Atlanta art school, making new friends and releasing his energy in the city’s gay bars and clubs.
During his time in Atlanta, Barton received a gift of a used 35mm camera and learned the basic darkroom techniques, making photography his calling in life. He moved to California in the late 1960s, settling in the San Francisco area, to pursue his photography and life as an openly gay man. By the early 1970s Barton was a leading photographer at the emergence of the gay awakening, a participant as well as a chronicler of this time.
Many of Barton’s images documenting love-ins in the park, cross-dressers in the Castro, and leather men prowling at night have become classics of the gay world. He photographed street protests, some of the first Gay Pride parades, Harvey Milk campaigning in San Francisco and celebrities such as actor Sal Mineo and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti
It was, however, Crawford Barton’s circle of friends and acquaintances that inspired his most intimate photography, Considered as a single body of work, his photographs of his lover of twenty-two years, Larry Lara, dancing in the hallway of their flat, standing in a doorway, or nude in the hills of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, show the richness and complexity of the man he loved most.
In the early 1980s, San Francisco and the gay community were devastated by the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, with its onslaught of illness and death. Larry Lara died from complications from AIDS and Crawford Barton later succumbed from AIDS at the age of fifty in 1993.
In addition to his fine art photography, Barton photographed on assignment for “The Advocate”, the “Bay Area Reporter”, “The Examiner”, “Newsday”, and the “Los Angeles Times”. The GLBT Historical Society, an archives, research center and museum in San Francisco, holds the complete personal and professional papers and studio archives of Crawford Barton.
“I tried to serve as a chronicler, as a watcher of beautiful people — to feed back an image of a positive, likable lifestyle — to offer pleasure as well as pride.” – Crawford Barton
Top Insert Image: Crawford Barton, “Self Portrait”, circa 1970s
Bottom Insert Image: Crawford Barton, “Jason evans, San Francisco”, circa 1970s, Private Collection