Two photo books offer new and historic views on LGBT people

  • by Jim Provenzano
  • Sunday February 28, 2021
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(left) Baltimore couple Gloria and Charmaine, 1979, from the book Eye to Eye. Photograph: JEB (right) from Charles Moriarty's 'X'
(left) Baltimore couple Gloria and Charmaine, 1979, from the book Eye to Eye. Photograph: JEB (right) from Charles Moriarty's 'X'

Two photo books, one new, the other re-issued decades after first being published, show stark differences, and similarities, in the depiction of their subjects.

Charles Moriarty is best known for photographing the iconic cover for the late Amy Winehouse's debut album Frank. He subsequently published a book of portraits of young Amy from the time leading up to her first album. His second book, X, is a more personal departure featuring an intimate collection following Moriarty's journey that speaks to the larger queer experience. His subjects are queer, straight, drag queens, artists, models, friends, family. He also candidly depicts the male form in many diverse presentations.

Moriarty grew up gay, closeted, and Catholic in Ireland in the 1980s, so the display of queer bodies and the male form in the pages of X are a profound departure from his roots, more reflective of his later life in London, where he moved at age 18.

Charles Moriarty's 'X'  

In 2003, he started working as a photographer in the music industry and on the London social scene. He worked with Amy Winehouse, Hercules and Love affair, and for multiple publications and other projects. Charles was also the stills department manager for Lucas Film's Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens.

In 2017 he self-published his first book, Before Frank, revealing for the first time many of his unpublished photographs of Amy Winehouse. In 2018 the book was republished by Octopus Publishing, under the new title, Back to Amy. His work is part of the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

Gary Needham, an expert on modern queer art and senior lecturer in film at the University of Liverpool, closes the photo book with an essay that compares Moriarty's work to George Platt Lynes, Nan Goldin, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Charles Morarty's X, 208 pages. $55. Additional book & print sales at

JEB's 'Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians'  

Herstoric photos
"In the '70s, it was impossible to find authentic and affirming images of lesbians. They didn't exist," said Joan E Biren, or JEB as she is better known, in a recent Guardian interview. Her historic photos from her cross-country travel are collected in the reissued edition of her groundbreaking photo book, Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians.

Biren, widely regarded as the first lesbian photographer to compile a book of photographs of lesbians for lesbians, self-published her revolutionary photo book in 1979.

Contemporary lesbian life across the U.S. is thoroughly depicted in both solemn and whimsical portraits, the result of years of close collaboration with her subjects, at their homes, at Womyn's music festivals, or after conferences and Pride marches.

The re-publication of the 1979 book marks a historic time before depictions of lesbians became more frequent. In Eye to Eye, all of the women are named, but last names are sometimes are omitted.

"Not everyone could go that far," said Biren in the Guardian interview. "It was a big leap to have faces, names, places all together in a book. I wanted to make as much of a statement as possible about being out, but I had to protect them. Trust was the most important thing. It wasn't my skill with the camera or anything else."

Included in the book is a poem by the late author Audre Lorde, and essays by Adrienne Rich, Joan Nestle and others. The new edition includes essays from artist and writer Tee Corinne, former World Cup soccer player Lori Lindsey, and photographer Lola Flash.

Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians, by JEB. $30.