Every year around the Fourth of July, a ferryboat full of drag queens sets sail for the 32-mile sand dune that is Fire Island, a gay mecca and home to the annual spectacle “Invasion of the Pines.”
For nearly 40 years, photographer Susan Kravitz has been there, capturing every moment of glitz, glamour and equality. The results appear in her new book, “Mascara, Mirth & Mayhem: Independence Day on Fire Island,” also the title of her photo exhibit opening Friday, Jan. 12, at the Stonewall Museum – Wilton Manors Gallery.
“The Invasion of the Pines” is today an annual celebration of pride, LGBT parties and drag shows on the island’s Fire Island Pines neighborhood, but its origins are rooted in protest. The festival marks a 1976 incident in which a Fire Island Pines bartender refused to serve a group of drag queens from the neighboring Cherry Grove community whom he considered low-class. To protest the discrimination, Cherry Grove residents dressed in drag, hired a water taxi and “invaded” the Pines. Kravitz first arrived to document the so-called “Invasion” in 1979, and has returned almost every year since.
At times sexy but often somber, Kravitz’s images track the progression of the LGBT rights movement from the 1980s to the present day, from the gloominess of the HIV-AIDS crisis to the joyfulness felt following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage. Kravitz, also promoting her 2016 coffee-table book of the same title, will discuss the exhibit during a 6-8 p.m. opening reception on Friday, Jan. 12.