Robert Giard’s Photographs of Poets and Writers
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has acquired the archive of American photographer Robert Giard (Y’61) as part of the Yale Collection of American Literature. The archive was acquired from Jonathan Silin, Robert Giard’s life partner. Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. A detailed listing of the papers can be found online here: Robert Giard Papers; images from the collection can be found online here: Giard Collection Image Guide.
Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. The archive is a unique and important collection providing a significant resource for the study of literary America in the late twentieth century. A detailed biography of Robert Giard and his career appeared in the Yale Bulletin and Calendar, March 31, 2006. More information about the photographer and his work can be found at The Robert Giard Foundation website.
The photographer’s archive contains more than 1,500 vintage prints, 7,800 related work prints, and extensive correspondence, records, diaries and other papers. The papers document both the photographer’s printing process and his trips to photograph his subjects. A detailed description of the archive can be found online. Over 800 of Giard’s photographs are available online in the Beinecke’s Digital Library.
Robert Giard’s archive complements the Beinecke’s expanding collection of resources related to contemporary gay and lesbian literature, which includes the papers of James Purdy, Edmund White, David Leavitt, Christopher Cox, George Whitmore,and Ethan Mordden, in addition to correspondence of such figures as Edward Albee and Christopher Isherwood contained in other archives. Additional related archival collections may be found in the Finding Aid Database and the Uncatalog Acquisitions Database; printed materials by many of Robert Giard’s photographic subjects can be found in Orbis, the Yale Library catalog.
Images: Robert Giard portraits of: J.D. McClatchy; Adrienne Rich; Michael Cunningham; and Barbara Smith. Images below: Robert Giard portraits of: Larry Kramer with Molly; Allen Ginsberg with his own portrait of W. S. Burroughs.