For gays, Fire Island consists of two disparate communities, separated by either a speedboat or a walk through "the Meat Rack," which used to be littered with used condoms and occasionally a worn out paddle. The Pines is the slightly attitude community where body-conscious (but not necessarily health conscious) guys work out to show off their bodies and do drugs en route to tea dances and partying till dawn. The beach, the pool, and the hotel dance club are the arenas in which they seek hedonism, cocktails, and drag entertainment, all with a mortal fear of returning to New York City for work. And across the way is Cherry Grove, the more honky-tonk village where all manner of LGBTs congregate—and even some straights—all with a bent on almost rowdy but always friendly carousing. Drag queens are even more present than in the Pines, and there are hot guys too (the underwear parties will put a bulge in your skivvies—or maybe a hand there), but in general, the Grove is for unpretentious debauching of a welcoming kind.
Photographer Alex Geana has captured the spirit of Fire Island with his photos (with an emphasis so far on the Pines), which will be shown at the Leslie-Lohman Project Space on September 28th at 6 PM. He focuses his lens on the tribal spirit involved in poolside romping, as well as in the poignancy of a glittery queen finding solace in the noonday sun or a nude violinist brazenly communing with the elements. When gussied up creatures disembark from the ferry for the annual "Invasion"—the fourth of July event where spectators crowd the Pines dock to watch drag stars arriving from Cherry Grove, a nod to a time when they weren't allowed—Geana is there to clock the ritualized exhibitionism, glamour, and inclusion. The planks of Fire Island--where there are no cars—provide a runway for Geana to document the island's beauties, bitches, and babes as they create an alternate universe where gay is queen. The fact that the whole place always seems a bit doomed—one little hurricane and the dunes can be done in—gives it even more of a bittersweet allure.
Says Geana, "I discovered Fire Island three years ago, having heard tales of debauchery and decadence. I discovered a vibrant community full of self-expression and freedom. Epic pool parties, fancy dinners and all night dance parties. I wanted to create a definitive body of work preserving what Fire Island is like today. Every year I returned, I was shocked by the fast pace of erosion. With the rise of sea level, I can't help wondering how much longer this rare sandbar will still stay with us. So I set out to create a book of key memories and pictures. As the season unfolded and we had seemingly endless grey weekends, I started to really understand how the weather affected everyone's interaction and sense of the island.
"This project blurred the line between my professional and personal life, like nothing I've ever experienced. I also rediscovered how much I love dancing till 4 AM."