TABLE OF CONTENTS
Israel Wright is a photographer who has been documenting the Chicago LGBTQ community since the 1990s. His focuses include African-Americans, leather lifestyle, and persons with HIV AIDS through portraits, event photography, and photojournalism. For more than 35 years, he has been actively involved in volunteering with African-American, AIDS, cultural, and social service organizations throughout Chicago.
After moving to Chicago from Ohio in 1975, Wright began a career in banking and volunteered with various organizations in his new city. His first step into volunteering began at Horizons Community Services, now called Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ social service organization. Through a Horizons focus group, he was introduced to members of various organizations for people of color. He then began meeting with and participating in organizations such as Chicago Black Lesbians and Gays, the Kupona Network, Team Chicago, and the Greater Chicago Committee. While Wright was busy being involved on various boards and committees, photography remained just a hobby.
After being interviewed for winning the Greater Chicago Committee’s 1997 Male of the Year award, Lambda Publications took notice of Wright’s photographs and asked him to submit some of his work. He agreed and was then asked to be on the editorial board for Lambda Publication’s new magazine Blacklines, which strived to give gay and lesbian African American readers materials contributed predominantly by, for, and about African Americans. The magazine needed a photographer to cover events, and since was retiring, he volunteered. He would then go on to form Israel Wright Photographs, Inc. in 1998.
Wright’s photographs have been published nationally and internationally, and exhibited at museums and in community spaces in Chicago. As a leatherman, he has covered leather events such as International Mr. Leather, the Mid Atlantic Leather contest in Washington, D.C., the Cell Block Leatherman and Mr. Ebony Leather contests in Chicago, and the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. In Chicago, he often volunteers photography services to non profits including the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and the Human Rights Campaign. He also covers community events in Chicago such as Market Days, the Bud Billiken Parade, the Pride Parade, and President Obama’s victory celebration in Grant Park. He has contributed to book projects including The Faces of AIDS and The Journey.
Wright has been an activist for LGBTQ issues since moving to Chicago. Wright is a former member of ONYX’s Midwest chapter. ONYX is the longest existing leather club for people of color. Notably, he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2000. He was a photographer at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago gala in 2003. Wright was also involved in bringing the Gay Games to Chicago in 2006.
This is the finding aid for the Israel Wright Collection’s Photography series only. Once the remainder of the collection is processed, this finding aid will be updated as needed and incorporated into the overall collection’s finding aid.
Items included in the Israel Wright Collection’s Photograph series include physical photographs, hard disks, pocket CD-R disks, and a zip disk. The series spans from 1989-2008, but the vast majority of materials are not dated.
Restrictions on Access
The Leather Archives & Museum reached out to Israel Wright when they received a grant for the funding of The Cook County Leather Persons of Color Project in 2015. Items collected included physical photographs, hard disks, pocket CD-R disks, and a zip disk.
In order to fulfill the needs of the grant’s exhibit and due to the schedule of the exhibit, it was the decision of the processor to organize the physical photographs first. The items were sorted into various categories based on confirmed event, organization, or other identifiers. Then following the direction of the exhibit’s curator, the processor selected items to scan. The scanned items were given file names and data according to the following standards:
Example of complete object identifier for a photograph – iwp_pers0042.001
Only items with the potential of being chosen for the grant’s exhibit have been scanned and given file names at this point. Each category in the collection has a labeled divider in the photo boxes in which the collection is housed. Along with the category name, it is also denoted if the section’s items have been scanned thus far and includes any assigned items numbers. All scanned categories are filed before those that have not been scanned. Categories are filed in alphabetical order.
The content of hard disks has been saved to LA&M’s server. Disks have been saved under the information written on their labels. They have been sorted in subseries and arranged alphabetically in Digital Images Box #1. If content has not yet been saved to LAM’s server, it has been noted below. The one zip disk being house in Digital Images Box 1 has not yet been opened, but was kept with the collection because it potentially contains International Mr. Leather photographs.
Pocket CD-R disks have not yet been opened. The disks that were kept with the collection were done so because they have the potential of containing images that are pertinent to LA&M’s collection. As the remainder of the collection is processed, files on these disks will be opened and disks will be kept if pertinent. The remainder of the hard disks will also be saved to LA&M’s image server at that point.
Metal staples have been removed from a calendar. Loose mounting covers were removed from a portion of the mounted photographs. The photographs in the Bears Like Us folder were removed from their original frames.