Sometime following the Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village in 1968, under the name Bruce King, Willard began producing a newspaper, Gay Scene, which he published until 1992. With the increase of other gay-oriented newspapers and publications, Gay Scene's circulation decreased over the years and the newspaper became increasingly difficult for him to sustain. (Gay Scene is not represented in the collection.) Willard also appears to have started a company called Ava-Graph that produced gay pornographic films. In 1992, Willard broke his hip and while recuperating at the Fieldston Lodge Nursing Home in Riverdale, New York, he wrote profiles of the staff for the home's newsletter and gave talks about his career as a photographer of the stars. He died in the Bronx on September 7, 1999.
The Avery Willard photographs consist primarily of prints, proofs, contact sheets, negatives, oversized prints, and slides, spanning Willard's professional photography career. Most of the photos were taken from the late 1940s to the 1960s and cover a range of subjects. Almost all of the images are in black and white, but a small number are in color. Negatives and contact sheets are more numerous than prints. Studio portraits of both aspiring and famous actors and actresses constitute the bulk of the collection, although other performing arts personalities can also be found. Among the portraits are a number of nudes, mostly male. There are also numerous images of rehearsal and studio photos of theatrical productions, especially for Off-Broadway. Avery Willard's commercial work is also represented, particularly his work for Emmons Jewelry and the School of the Performing Arts. Personal material contains some photos of family, many with friends, portraits of Willard, and a scrapbook of photos from the 1940s. Avery Willard's numerous negatives of motion picture stills, as well as autographed celebrity photographs, are also included. A small representation of personal papers contains correspondence, writings by Willard, a few family papers, as well as some miscellaneous papers, such as business cards, publicity materials, and ephemera.
Willard also did commercial photography assignments for a number of businesses and organizations. Most notable among his corporate clients was Emmons Jewelry, a costume jewelry company, whose products were sold at home parties. In the 1960s, Willard photographed numerous celebrities for Emmons. As staff photographer for the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA), Willard photographed over fifty of the acclaimed ANTA Matinee Series productions at the Theatre de Lys from 1957 to 1963, as well as parties, places, and events for the organization. He also photographed a number of productions for the Association of Producing Artists (APA) and accompanied the group when they performed in Bermuda in 1960. From 1957 to1971, he also took photos of student productions for the School of Performing Arts. Willard developed an interest in the art of montage, which he utilized extensively in his work, and wrote an article on this subject that was published in Photography Handbook #175 (Fawcett, 1953).
New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division Avery Willard films. Included are gay erotic films on leather and Nazi themes, films of male-to-female drag, and some home movies. Also included are sound tracks for some of the films, and miscellaneous items.
Photographer, filmmaker, publisher, performer, and gay activist, Avery Willard was born Avery Willard Parsons, Jr.in Marion, Virginia on May 16, 1921. WIllard, who, as a child, collected autographs and photographs of film stars, came to New York after World War II, where he began working as a performer in summer stock. After appearing in a few productions, Willard decided that he did not wish to continue working as a touring actor. Around this time, he began taking photographs with a box camera that his mother had given to him. Willard enjoyed taking photographs of his fellow actors and he used his apartment just off Fifth Avenue as a studio. Willard was most active as a photographer from the late 1940s through the 1960s. His work included portraits of many aspiring and famous actors, actresses, musicians, and dancers, as well as photographs of theatrical productions. Many of Willard's photographs of Off-Broadway productions appeared in the theater annual, Theater World.