Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer Bill Kotsatos is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. These images are from his project ‘The Sanctity Of Gay Clubs‘. To see Bill’s portfolio click on any image.
Just as summer began to kick-off in early June, a 29-year-old security guard shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Not only was it the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since September 11 2001, it also marked the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people in United States history. Most poignantly is that the killings took place in what the queer community has always considered a “safe space” — the gay establishment — those bars, clubs and resorts found in large cities and small towns alike where, up until that day in June, no one ever had to think twice about their safety. The Pulse nightclub shootings wasn’t just an attack on the gay community, but also an attack on the safe space it offered.
A man tips a dancer during owner Shep Pettibone’s Tea Dance at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Sunday, July 3, 2016.
The hotel and its Paradise nightclub have offered the LGBTQ community sanctuary for nearly three decades. In 1998 Shep Pettibone, a widely-respected club DJ and prolific record producer whose writing and producing credits include tracks for Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, Taylor Dane and Labelle, purchased and renovated the one-time luxury resort that in its heyday drew thousands. Notably the East Coat’s largest gay dance club, Paradise and the Empress welcome members of the gay and straight community alike and are open year round, allowing a venue for all patrons to freely and safely be who they are.
Ivo Futselaar and Bronson Johnson relax as their food arrives at the Empress Hotel’s pool in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday, June 17, 2016. For the young couple a gay club allows them to feel safe and secure and although they mourn the Orlando victims, they contend that the tragic events will only make them stronger.
Stephanie Berman concentrates on a shot at Ginger’s Bar in Brooklyn, New York on Friday, June 24, 2016. A dive bar with all the trappings, Ginger’s is a place for customers to be themselves without judgement.
Lasers and thumping music fill the Paradise nightclub at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Friday, July 1, 2016. Some of those who frequent Paradise have been to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and draw similarities between the two venues, especially when noting the location of the restrooms to that of the dance floor. As they carelessly groove into the weekend there’s someone here who gives a visual sweep every so often. Another takes note of the exit doors while attentive bartenders keep watch over their customers like a shepherd to a flock.
A group of friends spend the afternoon at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Saturday, July 2, 2016. Although gay clubs have long been considered safe spaces among its patrons, the Pulse nightclub shooting has reawakened the importance of these establishments.
Dancers perform during owner Shep Pettibone’s Tea Dance at The Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Sunday, July 3, 2016.
Ms. Paradise 2016, Jolina Jasmine, makes her way to the poolside stage at the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Saturday, June 18, 2016. As the crowd here goes on with their lives some can’t help but think what they would do if their safe space were to be invaded by a gunman, thus forcing upon them a heightened sense of spatial awareness.
In between sets during ‘Asbury Park for Pulse,’ a fundraiser for the Orlando shooting victims families, performers ready at the Paradise nightclub in the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Friday, June 17, 2016. The event drew 1,300 attendees and raised over $20,000, and was conceived as a show of love and support for the slain.
A performer readies before hitting the stage for ‘Asbury Park for Pulse’ at the Paradise nightclub.