Stephen Frailey reviewed Amos Badertscher’s abundant survey at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery in Baltimore for Artforum:

Amos Badertscher (1936–2023) was largely unknown beyond a coterie of local admirers and certain historians of queer culture. Badertscher photographed drag queens, hustlers, street kids, rent boys, barflies, and junkies, documenting his City of Night in Catholic Baltimore from the mid-1960s to 2005, scrawling his detailed recollections within the margins of black-and-white prints, overexposed and redolent of the darkroom.

Initially, a resemblance to aspects of better-known photographers—such as Larry Clark, Jim Goldberg, Duane Michals, and Mark Morrisroe—shadows the work. One is also reminded of the “localness” of George Dureau’s portraiture, the romanticism of Jean Genet’s “sunken beauty,” and the genteel prurience of Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden’s ephebe-laden pastorals. What dominated this presentation overall, however, was the voice of the photographer, both through the pictures’ marginalia and the artist’s oral reminiscences, which were provided here via wall texts.

Situating Badertscher’s art in the context of post-Stonewall liberation and joy is not inappropriate, but the work’s eroticism is frequently compromised by narratives of harrowing social and economic catastrophe, the hollowing-out of the industrial working class, and the destruction of familial stability.

Badertscher’s opus is thus not a celebration but a eulogy. [I]t is hindsight that gives this art its pathos and significance while allowing us to recognize that a photograph is, more than anything, a vessel of memory and evanescence.

View the full review

Browse all work by Amos Badertscher at CLAMP