Photographer Michael Hoerner’s “Ilegal Pride” Exhibition

Powerful, celebratory images on display just blocks away from where they were captured

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No image may ever be able to capture the complete sensations of NYC Pride—the ferociousness, liberated joy and unbounded togetherness—but photographer Michael Hoerner certainly comes close. In a series of vibrant images, punctuated by a large-scale, black and white piece, Hoerner taps into the raw energy of it all and documents some of the characters populating the scene. In a way, Hoerner’s work is a time capsule. The images were taken during Pride in 2008 and yet they feel as if they were taken yesterday. Hoerner’s exhibiting the photos just blocks from where they were taken, in the old Perry Street Theater, which Ilegal Mezcal now calls home. Here, they’ve hosted a series of concerts with proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood. And now the show “Ilegal Pride,” curated by Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar Creative Director Matthew Green and Ilegal Mezcal’s brand team leader Kaylan Rexer, stakes claim to the walls with a portion of proceeds benefitting select LGBTQ youth charities.

“I was waiting for my kids,” Hoerner explains to CH of the photo series’ inception. At the time they were six and nine years old and he was expecting them that day for the week. “I called up my ex and asked where they were and told her I was planning on taking them to the Pride parade,” he continues. “She told me that they were actually already there together. I was a little bummed but okay, so I had a smoke, grabbed my camera and decided to go take pictures!” When he got to the parade, Hoerner hopped the fence and was the only person on the street capturing images up-close.

When Green tapped him for the show, only nine days remained until doors would open. The situation under which they were taken actually benefitted the photographer. “They were all shot on a 30D and most of the were JPEGs because I didn’t have a lot of space on the camera,” he says. That meant that the spatial restrictions initiated a first round of editing back in 2008. As for what made it to the walls, they were whittled down from 600 possibilities. Each was selected for its power and the way it works with the others.

Hoerner’s background is quite diverse. Originally from New Orleans, he moved to Hollywood at a very young age. Starting at 15 he was a welder while fronting a band and then ultimately entered film and TV as an editor. He moved to NYC in 1991 and began shooting on a Pentax K1000 that he’d had for years. Falling in love with the club scene and social activities of the city, he shifted to disposable cameras. His evocative personal style has been developing ever since as he has photographer loved ones and scenes like this. It’s a strong New York story from an artist who understands the city.

Anyone interested in seeing “Ilegal Pride” can schedule a gallery visit through outreach to question[at] The extended show will be open again starting on 24 July for the whole week—with gallery hours listed on the site.

Images by Michael Hoerner