Candlelight Vigil, Christopher Street, New York (c. 1988)

The event probably took place in May 1988. Candlelight vigils were a prominent part of both the mourning and political process in the early AIDS Crisis. The names of dead loved ones were written on the ballons and the balloons were ultimately let out into the air. This practice came into disfavor and was eventually discontinued when it became known that the balloons ended up in the ocean and were swallowed by sea turtles, thus killing them. The names of dead loved ones were often intoned during the vigil. (I remember David Summers, an early AIDS activist who died in 1986, speaking at this event and Artie Strickler reciting Kaddish, but that probably was an earlier candlelight vigil that I'm conflating with this one.) At the end, the crowd walked to the Hudson River and the still-burning candles were thrown into the river. Additional footage from this event is in my film, “Elegy in the Streets.” The black and white footage near the end is so dark and grainy because the film was shot under very low light circumstances and pushed several stops (in plain English, the film was left in the developer much longer than normal in order to bring out the image). The footage of Nelson Gonzalez putting on his shoes was on the end of an unfinished roll of film.

Digital transfer made possible by a grant from the Al Larvick Conservation Fund.

00:57 Ed Murphy (the bouncer at the Stonewall who re-invented himself as a Gay activist, not the comedian)
01:10 Arty Strickler
01:21 George Towne
02:02 Kiss ‘n’ Tell Tommy (I never knew his last name, but he was always fun to talk to)
02:12 Jamie Leo
04:47 Gerri Wells, Ilith Rosenblum
05:10 Sarah Schulman
06:43 Sally Chew, Doug Gould, David France
06:57 David Robinson
07:46 Michael Nesline
08:08 Nelson Gonzalez

Hand-processed, 16mmEthan Shoshan