Fire Island, a sandy strip off the south shore of Long Island, New York, holds a certain power in the collective gay consciousness. Toronto photographer Patrick Lightheart couldn’t wait to explore it, physically and artistically.
“It’s like a gay mecca,” Lightheart says. “You hear about these places and you don’t really know what to expect. I had a certain idea of what it would be. Quaint little cottages, a bit tired, a bit ’70s and ’80s, kind of older gays, and it was completely opposite from that. There was everything, which is what I really liked about it. It was a mix of everybody, but it was probably one of the chicest places I’ve ever been.”
Lightheart’s Fire Island project was born when interior designer Tommy Smythe asked him to take some photos of the gay resort for House & Home magazine. Later, he decided to put together an exhibit incorporating some of the unused images. Reminiscent of vacation photography, each piece is stylized as an oversized Polaroid image.
The work seeks to capture the feeling of the place, not just the landscape or the people. “There was a double personality to the place. As soon as the lights went down, it was a whole other . . . you know, all kinds of things went on,” Lightheart says. “It was very civilized, chic: daytime pool party, dinner parties, and then at night it was no-holds-barred, full party, all sorts of things going on in the dark on the beach.”