Silence = Death: GLBT Historical Society Acquires Prints by Local Activist Photographer

Silence = Death

Cultural institutions in San Francisco continually search for new acquisitions. Alexis Coe brings you the most important, often wondrous, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally downright vexing finds each week.

Patrick Clifton now spends his days teaching high school in the East Bay, but his Facebook page serves as a retrospective of his former life as an activist photographer. From 1986 to 1991, Clifton focused his camera lens on his San Francisco community, capturing militant AIDS activism through the medium of black-and-white film.

Gerard Koskovich, a curator at the GLBT Historical Society, met the photographer during the high-queer era of the mid-1980s, when the newly discovered human immunodeficiency virus had already infected a large percentage of the city's queer men.

There was no treatment, and the federal government responded at a glacial pace. Homophobic politicians and alarmists in the public sphere attempted to dominate the discourse, using the epidemic to spread hate and fear while the death toll steadily mounted.

View Comments