Paula Gately Tillman is a photographer from Baltimore, Maryland. She had quite an exciting welcome to life at the original Franklin Square Hospital from her war hero, fighter pilot father, who flew a jet from Colorado to Baltimore to see his newborn child and his wife, Elizabeth Anne Tillman.
Gately Tillman traveled the world with her military family, living in exotic locales from which the family visited ruins in Greece and Turkey as well as museums and cities in Europe. Travel as a child and exposure to the photography of her father, who documented their travels, influenced Gately Tillman’s photographic vision, but as a child and later as an adult she would return to Baltimore, forging links with local artists through her work.
While living in Aspen, Gately Tillman took a beginner’s course in black-and-white photography, which included working in a darkroom with film and learning to print photographs. She was using a Nikon EM 35 mm film camera at that time. She subsequently met and was mentored by Eileen Lewis, internationally published photographer. Feedback from other noted professionals prompted her enrollment in continuing education classes at the School for Visual Arts in New York City. A chance meeting with Brant Mewborn, senior editor of Rolling Stone, introduced her to the punk rock, fashion diva and drag queen circles in downtown New York and Atlanta. Shooting in natural light and using a Nikon FA 35 mm film camera, Gately Tillman documented the glittering personalities that populated those circles in the 1980s and 1990s. Gately Tillman’s photographs provide a record of that time in U.S. society, giving her photographs inherent historicity.
Her photographic subjects included RuPaul, Nelson Sullivan, Tish and Snooky Bellomo (backing singers for Blondie and founders of Manic Panic), Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (founders of World of Wonder and producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race), and the zany characters that inhabited the American Music Show, produced and co-founded by Dick Richards and Potsy Duncan in Atlanta. During the next decade, Gately Tillman built her portfolio, exhibiting nationally and internationally:
1986 Spotlight Group Show SoHo Photo Gallery New York, New York
1987 Solo Show SoHo Photo Gallery New York, New York
1987 Paula Gately Tillman: Photographs Gallery 291 Atlanta, Georgia
1987 Solo Show Hotel Diva Gallery San Francisco, California
1988 Paula Gately Tillman: Photographs SoHo Photo Gallery New York, New York
1990 Look I’m Only Human New Visions Gallery Atlanta, Georgia
1990 Atlanta Underground and Other False Truths Atlanta Photography Gallery Atlanta, Georgia
1991 Photographs 1983-1991 Candide Night Club Gallery Atlanta, Georgia
1993 Paula Gately Tillman: In Collaboration North Georgia College Dahlonega, Georgia
1994 The 1994 Atlanta Biennial The Nexus Contemporary Art Center Atlanta, Georgia
1995 Paula Gately Tillman: In Collaboration (Selected Works) German American Chamber of Commerce Atlanta, Georgia
1995 Art in Atlanta King Plough Arts Center Atlanta, Georgia
1996 Art in Atlanta Artists-In-Residence International, Traveling Exhibition through six cities in Europe Germany
1996 Post-Olympia or How We Spent the Summer of 1996 Art Festival of Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia
1997 3+1 ZAK Jugend-Und Kulturzentrum Bunde, Germany
1997 Look Back-Get Down, A Celebration of Atlanta and Athens Music Nexus Contemporary Center for Art Atlanta, Georgia
In the meantime, Gately Tillman’s parents had settled in Maryland after her father’s retirement from the Air Force. Called back to Maryland in 1998 by the terminal illness of her mother, she settled in Baltimore to be near her parents and began researching the local art scene. Her interest was drawn to the Creative Alliance, and after meeting with Jed Dodds, CA’s Creative Director, she decided to join as an artist member, attending artist critiques and showing work she had created in New York City and Atlanta. Simultaneously, she began working on new pieces, black-and-white self-portraits with her parents, one of which Jed Dodds curated into a small show in Fells Point. Through the Baltimore art community, she met Christen Clougherty who was pursuing her MFA in book making. Gately Tillman collaborated with Clougherty on a handmade book, the first form of Gately Tillman’s Venice is a Dream: A Childhood Memory, using family snapshots taken in Venice, which she rephotographed and printed. Jed Dodds curated the book into a group exhibit, Being Seen 1-2-3 in 2001. In 2002 her self-portraits with her parents were curated into another small group exhibition, Facing Herself, in a small gallery at the Creative Alliance in its Highland Town location.
Her work came to the attention of the late Glenn McNatt, then art critic for the Baltimore Sun, who wrote about her work in several reviews. Favorable reviews prompted Gately Tillman to think about creating a body of work for a solo exhibition to introduce her work to Baltimore. Inspired by the example of two women Renaissance painters, Lavinia Fontana and Sofonisba Anguissola, whose paintings she would visit while she worked at the Walters Art Museum, she formed a question to investigate: Who are the women artists living and working in Baltimore? Beginning with women she already knew, including Molly Ross, Linda Gravina Ridings, Annet Couwenberg, Nancy Linden, and Linda De Palma, Gately Tillman went on to photograph women artists to whom Glenn McNatt introduced her: Joyce Scott, Linda Day Clark, Soledad Salamé, and Oletha DeVane. She worked in natural light with a 35 mm Nikon AF N8008 camera, using black-and-white Tri X film, printing photographs, 7x5 images on 10x8 fiber museum paper, in a darkroom in Towson. Her first solo exhibition in Baltimore, Women in The Arts: Baltimore 2004, was mounted at the Amalie Rothschilds Gallery of the Creative Alliance. Shows from 2001 to 2013 include the following:
2001 Being Seen 1-2-3 Creative Alliance Baltimore, Maryland
2002 Facing Herself Creative Alliance Baltimore, Maryland
2004 Collections Contained Chesapeake Gallery Harford Community College Bel Air, Maryland
2005 We Were the 80’s Avalanche Gallery New York, New York.
2007 Two Women Artists Gallery at La Terra Baltimore, Maryland
2008 Juried Photography Invitational Exhibition The Monmouth Museum Lincroft, New Jersey
2011–2012 New Pictorialists Competition Entries The Photo Review
2013 Building a Movement in the Southeast: Robert W. Woodruff Library Emory University Atlanta, Georgia
In 2015 to 2016, as part of In a New Light: The Campaign for the Baltimore Museum of Art, six of Gately Tillman’s black-and-white gelatin silver prints from the 1980s and 1990s were acquired by the museum for its Permanent Collection and exhibited in the Contemporary Wing’s Caswell J. Caplan Memorial Gallery, alongside several large works by Andy Warhol, including one of his iconic paintings of the Last Supper.
In 2017, Gately Tillman collaborated with video editor and archivist Robert Coddington to produce a 16-minute documentary of her 1980s and 1990s work. Original black-and-white portraits are intercut with video footage from the time, as shot by pioneering video artist Nelson Sullivan, and by Dick Richards, co-founder of the American Music Show. Accompanying these images is a song, “In My Neighborhood,” from RuPaul’s Funtone USA (co-founded by Dick Richards and Ted Rubenstein) album Sex Freak, released in 1985. Gately Tillman premiered the video as a guest artist at the University of Baltimore, where Peter Eide invited her to lecture his art students.
From 2017 through 2018 Gately Tillman worked with Ashton Design and a creative team she assembled to produce Fringe: New York Atlanta 1984–1997, her award-winning compendium of black-and white photographs taken in the 1980s and 1990s in New York City and Atlanta. Published in December 2018, Fringe has won awards from Communication Arts 2019, the New York Art Directors Club 2019, and the Mid-Atlantic Printing & Graphics Association 2019.
In 2019 five of Gately Tillman’s photographs from Fringe were featured in A Look Back: 50 Years After Stonewall, an exhibition at Fort Gansevoort, a gallery located at 5 Ninth Avenue in New York’s Meatpacking District. The gallery is the former home of Nelson Sullivan and his circle as well as the site of several photo shoots by Gately Tillman.
Beginning in November 2020 and continuing into 2022, Gately Tillman, with an invitation from the Creative Alliance to mount a solo exhibition, began conceptualizing a show that would include photos from her 1980s and 1990s work and provide a platform from which to launch a new body of work, New Generations: The Photography of Three Cities and Two Eras, a follow-up to her 2004 solo exhibition, Women in the Arts: Baltimore 2004.
In the meantime, in 2021, working with the creative team that developed Fringe, Gately Tillman produced another book, My Love is a Thread Tied to You, a photographic tribute to her late husband, LeRoy E. Hoffberger.
In 2022 one of Gately Tillman’s photographs of RuPaul from the “Bad Ass” photo shoot, Atlanta 1986, was curated into a show at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Shapeshifting: Transformations on Paper, May 8 to October 2, 2022.
In 2022 Gately Tillman’s solo exhibition, New Generations: The Photography of Three Cities and Two Eras, opened at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore and ran from December 16, 2022, to January 22, 2023. Ten iconic photographs from her 1980s and 1990s work were juxtaposed with twenty photographs of current artists living and working in Baltimore. Gately Tillman, using a Fujifilm digital X-T3 camera, captured the Baltimore artists in their studios in color. In New Generations Gately Tillman showcased the diversity in the Baltimore art community, highlighting the exciting new creations of the next generations of artists whose art speaks truth to the time in which it was created.