Honey Lee Cottrell is dead

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

I haven’t read Susie Bright in a while, so I missed this:

Honey Lee was my second butch girlfriend, but she was my first famous love, my first older woman lover . At the end of our first date, she dropped me off on the curb and said, “Bye–You’re a nice kid.” I was put out by that, but I was dutifully intimidated. Honey Lee had already been partners with a string of women who were like the Who’s Who of Lesbian History. I looked up to all of them, from Melinda Gebbie, the virtuoso artist of the underground comix scene, to Tee Corinne, with whom Honey Lee had done legendary collaborations. Just before me, her lover was Amber Hollibaugh one of the architects of modern queer radical politics.

I don’t know how much these lovers were influenced by Honey Lee, but I had never met anyone like her before. She was an adventurer, one of the first astronauts of lesbian eroticism, looking for women and places and circumstances that had never been seen before.

Although she photographed every kind of person and sexuality imaginable, her most memorable portraits for me were of working-class women, people on the street, women who lived by their wits, women who the mainstream cameras never see. She took their pictures with complete empathy into their sexuality. Her models, both men and women, knew they could trust her with their sexual secrets, and she collaborated with these friends to make those ideas visually alive.

“In the 60s and early 60s,” she wrote, “The ambition of the people surrounding me was to build an alternative society and then live in it…forever. The reward would be that then you wouldn’t have to live out the big lie so thoroughly absorbed by the ‘others.’ Our secret hope was that the ‘others’ would see the errors of their ways and come over to our side.

“I think they have seen the error, but sadly they haven’t migrated to our side so…now we have been invited to show our wares to them. I am skeptical. You could say that I’m not ambitious, but to me the notion of ambition is a distortion of my original intention. My work, and I believe this is true of other lesbian photographers, is tied to the context of the community that it has emerged from. Most of my work is a point-for-point retaliation for damages done to me. The problem is that the Art Establishment won’t allow such vindictiveness to be certified as true art. Especially when it is done so blatantly, blatancy of course being a source of great pride to us.”