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PRIDE! Jessica Tanzer, The Box, Act-Up, Bad Cop No Donut

Celebrating June PRIDE

© Jessica Tanzer, 1990

The Box taken in SFAI's Studio 16—one of the definitive images celebrating LGBTQ love at a crucial historical juncture.

Jessica Tanzer was a student at SFAI when she took the above iconic photograph as a promotional image for a queer night club called The Box. The Box was a long-standing, all-genders venue run by legendary San Francisco DJ Page Hodel. Tanzer brought the club’s dancers (The Box Dancers) in for a photo shoot in SFAI’s Studio 16:

“We did a few different shots, and it was just one of those situations where you’ve got 36 chances on a roll to get something, and this was frame number 35. And we didn’t know what we wanted—it’s like okay, everyone lay on the ground! Everyone hold hands! Look at the camera! No don’t look at the camera, look at each other! Kiss! As soon as they kissed we just knew that we’d got the shot.

That picture really tells the story of the gay community of San Francisco at the time. Nobody cared what color you were, or what your pronoun was, or anything like that. It was just a big family, and it was a big family that was fighting the AIDS crisis and going out at night and burning off the energy, and then going back out during the day to fight.”

Tanzer’s work from this period has been collected in the Cornell University Library’s Human Sexuality Collection in their Rare Books and Manuscripts Division with this description: “an active member of ACT UP and a contributing photographer to On Our Backs, Jessica Tanzer created lesbian and bisexual erotic images during a formative period for this genre in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s.” And she was a card carrying member of the “Bad Cop, No Donut” movement.


With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.



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