Several years ago, I began posting candid photos from the last forty years of my life on Instagram. I had no big scheme or vision in mind. I just wanted to share them. The photos were mostly from my vacations with gay male friends at gayish holiday destinations. I quickly started getting a lot of comments in reaction to my photos, which spurred me to post daily, adding extended stories to accompany them. People seemed to like it.
I started hearing from viewers around the world how they loved my stories. Some even sought me out to meet me when they came to New York. And on a recent trip to London, I met even more fans. I’d never thought of my life as particularly unique or interesting to others, but it seemed I had tapped into something unexpected.
Today, 10,000+ devoted followers from around the world regularly visit my Instagram account, BAMMER47, drawn by the visual experience of those photos, the look back into LGBTQ history, and evidence of a tight-knit camaraderie that existed among urban gay men and lesbians in the 1960s through 1990s.
People suggested I create a book featuring my photos. A friend introduced me to an ex-New Yorker, Tom Walker, a photographer, designer, and producer of coffee table books, as a potential curator/editor of my book. Strangely, Tom and I had moved in the same circles in NYC over a long period, but we’d never met. Having shared similar experiences to mine over the past few decades, Tom lamented the present day lack of community, compared to what had existed before, and suggested there was perhaps something bigger and more impactful I could achieve with my efforts.
He explained that what I was offering wasn’t just photos, but stories told by a gay man who had lived through the momentous era of “gay liberation” and the AIDS crisis over the previous decades. And he pointed out that sharing my personal experiences with others was what had resonated so profoundly with them.
What if we could get others to share their personal experiences, too? Just as my stories have connected me to people all over the world, perhaps we could create a place where others share their experiences and get similarly connected. And we could create a community based on storytelling and shared experiences.
In addition, we both feel strongly that there are many incredible stories from our collective LGBTQ past that will be lost to time, if they aren’t shared now—NOT the big stories of the Stonewall Riots, the AIDS crisis, and marriage equality, but the smaller, personal stories of our lives as LGBTQ people.
Initially, we called the site Capturing Rainbows, but as our efforts have grown beyond just preserving stories of our past, and as BAMMER47 continues to expand, we have renamed the site BAMMER.co to more closely align the two efforts. In the beginning, the site was focused on gay male history (albeit with dozens of straight men and women allies, lesbians, and trans people in the beta group), but we’re now intent on broadening the membership and content to reflect the full diversity we represent.
That is how the BAMMER community began. We look forward to your stories and you becoming part of us. And, stay tuned as we reveal more of our plans for growing our community, both online and off.