Bold, Beautiful Outlaws

The Photography of Donna Gottschalk

Donna Gottschalk, Self-Portrait, Maine, 11x14 in. Gelatin-Silver print, 1976/2017. Courtesy of the artist.

BY: Jes Zurell

At the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, located in lower Manhattan, New York, Donna Gottschalk’s oeuvre of courageous, captivating women line the walls. Brave, Beautiful Outlaws peels the curtains away from a view of life that society struggled to accept in the 1960s and ‘70s, exposing moments of such unrelenting tenderness, they’re impossible to forget.

Gottschalk’s work provokes many questions. If you’re the curious type, her work will leave you wanting to know the personal story of every person she photographed. Even her own self-portrait–a rustic, woodsy wonderland of a piece, taken in Maine–is enough to make you want to know more about her. The New York Times called her “the most famous lesbian photographer you’ve never heard of,” and that’s changing.

Spend some time with these photos. Make the effort to drink them in. Let them feed the parts of your brain that ask questions about the world, and the beings that crawl and fuck and sleep on her. Ask the tough questions, like why society justifies the actions of its fascistic leaders, how long it will take to make up for the way homosexuals have been treated throughout history, and what you can do on a daily basis to show gratitude for people like Gottschalk, who boldly put evidence out into the world, as few had the courage to do.

The museum celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, so if for some ridiculous reason, you needed an extra purpose to go see this show, go to support one of New York’s most provocative and groundbreaking museums. The show closes on March 17, so time is running out to go enjoy it in person.

 

self portrait by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, Self-Portrait, Maine, 11×14 in. Gelatin-Silver print, 1976/2017. Courtesy of the artist.

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
“Helaine on her girlfriend’s lap, Provincetown” (1974) Credit: Courtesy Donna Gottschalk.

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
“Chris Jimenez and Their Dog, Queens” (1969) Credit: Courtesy Donna Gottschalk.

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
“Helaine on her girlfriend’s lap, Provincetown” (1974) Credit: Courtesy Donna Gottschalk.

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, “Donna and Joan, E. 9th St.” (1970), silver gelatin print (2018) (courtesy of Donna Gottschalk and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art).

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, “Sleepers, Limerick, Pennsylvania” (1970), silver gelatin print (2018) (courtesy Donna Gottschalk and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art).

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, “Marlene Resting with a Beer, Oregon” (1974), silver gelatin print (2018) (courtesy of Donna Gottschalk and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art).

 

photograph by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, 1974, silver gelatin print (2018) (courtesy of Donna Gottschalk and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art)

 

photograph of a nude woman by donna gottschalk
Donna Gottschalk, 1974, silver gelatin print (2018) (courtesy of Donna Gottschalk and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art)