Flávia Palladino: Alvin Baltrop: A Family Album for the Future


Thesis Advisor: Hypatia Vourloumis

March 2021


Bronx-born photographer Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) left behind a body of work that spanned more than three decades of image-making in his hometown New York. Although numerous rolls of his film remain undeveloped and the photographs that we know of today are rarely shown, his work is nevertheless a powerful testimony to life within the city’s marginalized communities, both before and after the AIDS epidemic. These images evoke how, by will and necessity, and in spite of the violent circumstances of their present, these oppressed communities invented exuberant practices for sharing their lives.

The reciprocity between what has been—that is, the traces—and what is yet to come (potential new combinations with and within these traces) collapses any idea of photography as evidence of a fixed, irreparable past. In these terms, Baltrop’s beautiful imagery functions not as a nostalgic record of a long-gone time but, instead, as a blueprint for imagining an otherwise future already latent in the artist’s experiments in how to live.

The thesis will focus on two groups of images produced between 1965 and 1986, called the Navy series and the Piers series. Assembled in what I’ve called a “family album,” twentyfour images work together in this new selection, which aims to offer ways of “reimagining possibilities and reorienting hope.”