The photographs of Alvin Baltrop (1948-2004) were virtually unknown during the artist’s lifetime.
A working-class African American, many of whose photographs are sexually explicit, Baltrop encountered only rejection. In the past decade his work has belatedly begun to be exhibited, including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, MoMA/PS1 in New York City, and Third Streaming in New York, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston. By far the largest cache of Baltrop’s extant photographs depicts the scene at the dilapidated Hudson River piers adjacent to Greenwich Village and the Meat Packing District. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, when Baltrop photographed there, the piers were a site of pleasure and danger for men seeking sex, sunbathing, making a provisional home, or just hanging out and taking in the splendor of the industrial ruins. More nefarious deeds also took place: theft, gay-bashing, even murder.