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Intimate Gay Photos from the Past: VIDEO


A collector of intimate images of men together shares a few:

My introduction to gay history - highlighting images I've collected over the last twenty five years, and how it felt to find them.



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  1. "Gay photos" is somewhat of a misnomer. "All-male" would be more accurate, as these were from a more innocent time when physical intimacy between men was not the topic of such rigid classification as it is today.

    Posted by: niles | Mar 20, 2013 8:58:27 PM

  2. At least you got to see something. I only saw balls going in a continuous circle.

    Posted by: Ken | Mar 20, 2013 9:34:21 PM

  3. Nothing gay there, misinformation is the worst tactic. Obviously there was gay people (whatever they called themselves) in the past, but don’t confuse with this. By the way, some of those pictures meant “brothers” o “like brothers”, nothing else. Same sex dancing was also pretty common, in times where premarital contact with women was frowned upon, meaning nothing else than dancing. Tango (by the way) began as a dance BETWEEN men.

    Posted by: SayTheTruth | Mar 20, 2013 9:34:28 PM

  4. @niles TOTALLY agree. it's a historic fallacy to assume these men were having the same type of relationship gay men do today.

    "gay" is a modern-day social construction

    before the word "homosexual" became an identity, men, were simply men, and enjoyed the company of each other without anyone implying (for good or bad) there was anything more involved. that's what these photographs capture.

    remember, the word "homosexual" itself didn't even exist until the late 1890s, and it didn't mean what it means today.

    These photographs were ubiquitous back in the day. They stand out now because of the dramatic shifts in attitudes for men and men in intimate relationships.

    The book, "Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography" by John Ibson has plenty more of these photos.


    Posted by: Manny | Mar 20, 2013 9:44:59 PM

  5. It's tempting to look at these images and project our own ideas. Without a context there's risk in slotting most of these--or any--into a niche that makes us feel good now.
    I am glad to see that men felt comfortable sharing such close intimate contacts, but don't want fall into the fallacy of making that mean more than it might. At most, we should all regret the loss of that. We are all diminished.

    Posted by: gregorybrown | Mar 20, 2013 9:54:51 PM

  6. I agree that the pictures don't confirm (or deny) the sexuality of the men photographed. Lets assume that many of the guys are straight, so I can at least say how nice it is to see straight men enjoying a level of comfort and friendliness with each other that would be unheard of today.

    Posted by: Chadd | Mar 20, 2013 9:58:44 PM

  7. Who knows what the relationships between these men were. Hopefully they were loving, whether sexual or platonic or both,

    Posted by: andrew | Mar 20, 2013 10:19:25 PM

  8. It's true there may not be a single gay man in these pictures, I know that. So what. I like imagining that many men everywhere and for all time are in love with one another because in fact many have been and will be. That's the unadmitted, unknown, hidden truth of it. So these guys are stand ins for me for the truth that I know is abundantly out there. They're all petting the dog as they come in the house, saying "Honey, I'm home." Makes me feel good.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Mar 20, 2013 10:25:11 PM

  9. This title is somewhat misleading. Like others said, the whole modern notion of homosexuality and being gay did not exist back then. I wonder if there is a place online to find old pictures of actual, romantic, same-sex couples from the past...

    Posted by: | Mar 20, 2013 10:41:57 PM

  10. The book "A Class Apart: The Private Pictures of Montague Glover" from the 1920's is a great book. Unfortunately the price is high. On Amazon >

    Posted by: Rob West | Mar 20, 2013 10:49:14 PM

  11. This appears to be misinformation from Towleroad. It's as if Andy Towle wants to use the word "gay" in association with all forms of intimacy between men. Hold your gay horses, Andy.

    Some of these images might be of a sexual nature but, in those days, men would often pose intimately together with no intention of getting into each other's pants. There was no gay branding as there is today.

    Posted by: Adam | Mar 20, 2013 10:52:45 PM

  12. Only the third, fourth and fifth would I consider to be remotely conveying any same-sex intimacy. And without context, research and verification, it is simply unethical to label the individuals in this pictures as gay.

    Posted by: Bollux | Mar 20, 2013 11:58:17 PM

  13. I'm sorry, that video was just creepy.

    Posted by: Johnny | Mar 21, 2013 12:04:49 AM

  14. These are photographs, not cave drawings. To declare that they are not modern is absurd. To declare that gay relationships didn't exist as we know them at the time of these PHOTOGRAPHS is absurd.

    That doesn't mean that all or any of these men are not gay. Men have been having enduring romantic relationships a lot longer than last week. Oscar Wilde was born in 1854. Magnus Hirschfeld was born in 1868. The Civil War was photographed.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 21, 2013 12:08:27 AM

  15. @David Hearne. Your point is well-taken. Photography in one form or another is a relatively recent art form, emerging in the 1840s. I would guess many of these photos were taken between 1900 and the beginning of WWII. Postcards were not common until 1890 or so -- I collect them -- and "real photo" cards like these were relatively uncommon until 1910. I imagine many of these men are brothers or cousins, certainly military buddies, making a photo to send to family and friends. Similar photo postcards exist of women.

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Mar 21, 2013 12:28:47 AM

  16. Male-male sensuality began its decline around the time feminism began to surface in America.. Feminists have destroyed men's sensual relations to each other with the caveat that it is only acceptable if it is associated with sexuality as well.

    Posted by: Adam | Mar 21, 2013 12:41:15 AM

  17. I am happy to promote a site that specializes in just this kind of photo,
    No BS, no theme other than photos prior to the 50's, of men, not really sexual because explicit photos could not be taken then unless you had your own dark room. But the pure innocence of the pictures and the fact that everyone in them is now long dead makes them somehow so awesome I can't get enough. It is like a boy of 17 in 2177 looking at photos of the pioneers of gay and thinking what beautiful men we were, and how sad it is we are all dead when clearly we were so hot in our time.

    Posted by: Markus | Mar 21, 2013 1:55:19 AM

  18. It's true that male-male affection had a different connotation in the past, and that many of these men may not be gay. It's also true that the modern concept of gay relationships didn't really exist in mainstream society, as a very well known entity. But it certainly EXISTED. Don't tell me there weren't gay people or gay couples before people caught on.

    Posted by: Jamie in Las Vegas | Mar 21, 2013 2:01:58 AM

  19. Just so we're clear, Adam is the new alias of the infamous Towleroad troll Rick/Jason, as evidenced by his anti-feminism, and anti-woman stance. Next he'll be saying that women are the most homophobic. It's his cut and paste rant he posts under many aliases on this blog.

    Posted by: MateoM | Mar 21, 2013 2:16:05 AM

  20. @ MateoM: Don't be so mean. Rick/Jason/Adam is clearly suffering from the fact he didn't get socialized as a man among men (probably because those wonderful all-male kids identified him as a sissy) and longs for it so much he HAS to blame it on someone. Why not women?

    BTW, clearly some of those pictures are from brothers and friends, but some are also more than that, would have been more than that. Would they have identified as "gay"? No. But that doesn't mean they weren't.

    Posted by: G.I. Joe | Mar 21, 2013 3:54:37 AM

  21. These men had a different mindset from the men of today because their interactions with each other were not dictated to by the political correctness of gay and feminist ideology. Men had a greater psychological freedom to sensualize with each other than they do today.

    Don't underestimate the role of feminists and women in general. Once you stop oppressing women, they become the oppressors. Women ultimately want greater rights than men. Women are currently oppressing us men, including gay men.

    Posted by: Adam | Mar 21, 2013 4:38:52 AM

  22. Adam, keep lookng around: you haven't found the right doctor yet.

    Posted by: DannyEastVillage | Mar 21, 2013 7:04:59 AM

  23. Many of these comments reminds me of the critics and authors during the first half of the 20th century, who literally jumped through hoops to explain why Walt Whitman couldn't have been homosexual. Even though the photograph of Peter Doyle and Walt Whitman gazing lovingly into each others eyes was burned into their consciousness.

    Whatever the sexuality of these men, they obviously thought enough of each other to have themselves photographed in an intimate way. These photographs are the exception, not the norm and should be appreciated in that context.

    Posted by: Jon | Mar 21, 2013 8:05:51 AM

  24. More detailed information about this topic may be found in the coffee-table photography art-book ( which arose out of an exhibition (Affectionate Men Part I & II
    A Photographic History of a Century of Male Couples) of images during the late 90's in New York City. I can no-longer find a reference to the original gallery (I thought I had book-marked it); but, the exhibition has been since touring the world and seen in many of Europe's and North America's largest cities.

    In addition, a fellah named the MUSIC MISFIT has prepared two Flash presentations based upon the aforementioned book which may be found here:

    Both are worthy of your attention.

    Warren C. E. Austin
    The Gay Deceiver
    Toronto, Canada

    Posted by: Warren C. E. Austin | Mar 21, 2013 8:07:52 AM

  25. Paul Kubek is a sweetheart of a guy, all muscles and fur and a sweet heart and his partner the same... whether he's mistaken or not about the provenance of these images (I believe they r not even postcards, possibly carte de visite instead), his intentions r good...

    and btw, photography is modernity...... modernity is something really in place in the 19th and 20th century (think industrial revolution, the hausmannization of Paris, etc)... Pop Art, Mad Men, Vietnam War etc... that is the end of modernity.... some would say we r even past postmodernity (80s to turn of the century)...

    Posted by: V-8 | Mar 21, 2013 8:09:02 AM

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