Charles Gatewood, a pioneering photographer of the underground for nearly 50 years, died today from injuries sustained in a fall from his third-floor balcony. He was 74.
From documenting the Beats and the dark alleys of 1970s Mardi Gras to extreme body modification practitioners and sexual fetishists, Charles lived his life as a curious, open-minded photographic anthropologist at the fringes of culture.
I first encountered Charles's work in the 1980s through the groundbreaking RE/Search book Modern Primitives and a grainy VHS dub of the documentary "Dances Sacred and Profane" about his quest for individuals "breaking the bounds of convention." We first met in 1993 and I always looked forward to the terrific stories of his travels through the interzones that he happily shared with me. Charles was warm, generous, witty, and very grounded. I feel fortunate that hanging in my home is his marvelous portrait of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin gazing into their dreamachine, an image that inspires me every day.
Charles's photography provided a glimpse of the sometimes shocking, always fascinating, and strangely seductive scenes that are waiting for us if we just know where to look. He relentlessly challenged us to open our eyes and minds. I'll miss him.