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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. Thanks V-8 - appreciate that :)

    In my own defense I'm well aware there there is no "proof" these gays are gay - nor do I say it anywhere in the piece. The gay attribution is only in the Towleroad headline (thanks for posting it!) not the piece itself.

    The piece is about what these images are to ME - and how I did look to them for historical context when there was little to none to see.

    Whatever they were in the past - you can't deny the evident intimacy.

    Posted by: Paul | Mar 21, 2013 8:53:08 AM

  2. Wow, gay men like to pick apart EVERYTHING - even an attempt to document a history that most want to sweep under the carpet. And no. You did not invent homosexuality in the 80's. Gay men have been here since the dawn of time. These photos go beyond some academic posturing about the intimacy of all men in a different age. These guys are closer than close and I suspect, were not treated very kindly for their closeness. I don't know what mystical world most of these commenters are referencing, where straight men were sensually touching and sharing sexual experiences without judgement. Get real.

    Posted by: MEMARCH | Mar 21, 2013 9:02:06 AM

  3. @Memarch

    You're clearly ignorant of the past. The concept of homosexuality did not exist back then (although there were ppl who fit into that classification) so men weren't raised to be afraid of appearing gay. That's why they could be more intimate without judgement.


    You probably think black people are oppressing white ppl now too. Get bad on ur meds and check urself into a mental health clinic.

    Posted by: Not that Rob | Mar 21, 2013 9:32:14 AM

  4. Geez. Homosexuality has been around for the longest. Are the guys in these photos gay? I don't know. But Kubek says, (paraphrasing) "I fill these photos with myself, and give them life." It's his collection and right to use his imagination any damn well way he pleases. He was just sharing that, and beautifully I might add. Stop being so critical and reading more into it than what it is.

    Posted by: Lawrence Stepney | Mar 21, 2013 9:46:59 AM

  5. Oh, my God, I'm going to have to die this morning. I actually agree with something Old Maid David Hearne said. I don't have any razor blades so I'll have to overdose on Advils.

    Yes, as David said, there was a concept of "Gay" before the term "Gay" was known. There was a subculture of same sex attraction that was semi-separate from homosexual men/women who stayed in the closet. AND many in that subculture were what we now call Transgender.

    Just like everybody else: Young Gay people study Gay history but only absorb what makes them feel good. Transgender folk dominated the "Gay subculture" for centuries. Why? Because they couldn't hide in the closet....they couldn't pretend. Most of them couldn't/wouldn't marry a member of the opposite sex and do their same sex stuff on the down low.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 21, 2013 9:52:10 AM

  6. Manny,

    You say gay is a modern construct.

    Pleease! Gay is a modern word, that's all.
    There have always been men who lived as "gay men"... the intimacies, the love, the lust and passion (gay) men feel for other men has always, always been a part of human culture, just as it is today. The "how" may be different... in that gay men today might be more open with others. But believe me, there is no difference between now and 100, 300, and 1000 years ago. Emotion, love, longing, lust... existed in men for men in all of human society. There is nothing "modern" about gay passion, sex and love.

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Mar 21, 2013 10:07:55 AM

  7. I suspect that the dance picture might even be a dance class. This is clearly NOT a group of gays dancing, it just wouldn't have happened back in the day.

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Mar 21, 2013 10:09:03 AM

  8. Quoth Anais Nin: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Just something to keep in mind during all these discussions. (As the maxim goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words"--in this case, we fill in the words we wish we could hear.)

    Posted by: Dback | Mar 21, 2013 10:20:15 AM

  9. "The concept of homosexuality did not exist back then"

    That's simply not true, why keep repeating a falsehood? These photos appear to be from the late 1800's > early 1900's, there were people like Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds in England and Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany that advocated for "gay" rights, even if the terminology was different (Carpenter called himself and his partner of 37 years George Merrill Uranians, for example).

    The first gay rights group in the US was formed in the 1920's. Harry Hay started The Mattachine Society in 1950, they certainly had a concept of being "gay", I have copies of their periodical One from the early 50's to prove it.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Mar 21, 2013 10:22:58 AM

  10. And I agree, a few of these photos are ambiguous, and may just be reflecting the times in which they were taken--but something in the 3rd and 5th photos definitely conveys a VERY deep male friendship, and I'd say full-out romantic love.

    Posted by: Dback | Mar 21, 2013 10:26:55 AM

  11. What a bunch of cranks in these comments. While the title of the article might be misleading, and given we know less than nothing about the men in the photos, there is a gentle naivity to them that is really quite lovely. Men interacting with each other without fear or weapons (or booze). C'mon guys lighten up.

    Posted by: Alan | Mar 21, 2013 12:03:19 PM

  12. I think it's really odd for modern gay men to assert that men in the past "couldn't" have loved each other, wanted to spend their lives together, sought out everything we seek out because back in those days the word "homosexuality" didn't exist.

    I knew what I was before I knew what word to give it. And in a culture which suppressed information and offered disinformation instead, I still managed to emerge like all the rest of you.

    To say it would have been LESS possible in a society where men could openly dance with each other is ABSURD.

    Posted by: BobN | Mar 21, 2013 12:38:59 PM

  13. Great......

    Posted by: Tomtomz | Mar 21, 2013 2:05:14 PM

  14. I have literally hundreds of photographs of family and their friends from the mid-1800's forward. Some are candid and some are what I call the "Philadelphia studio poses". Some of these photos were taken in the finest studios of Philadelphia and some were taken in photo shops on the boardwalk in Atlantic City and Ocean City (MD) and other resorts.

    NONE , N O N E, show men in the kind of poses found on that video. There are men with arms around shoulders and the occasional waist, but there are no men sitting on the lap of another, or holding hands.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 21, 2013 4:03:36 PM

  15. Yes, "homosexual" and "heterosexual" are recent constructs as personal identities - they date from the late 1800's.

    But before then, and in many cultures since then, romantic relationships, either sexual or not, have been frequent between men.

    Keep in mind the well-documented street pickup scene in Manhattan in the mid 1800s. Men having sex with men, being romantic with men, but not calling it "gay", since that hadn't been invented yet. Read Walt Whitman's diary entries about picking up men and going home to sleep with them - it sounds to me like Manhattan in 1840 was very similar to the castro in 1979.

    So - yes, some of the men in these photos were in love or in lust with each other. Depend on it.

    Posted by: E. Manhattan | Mar 21, 2013 6:20:58 PM

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