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'Not married but willing to be!': men in love from the 1850s – in pictures

Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s–1950s.

A new book collects photographs of male romance over the course of a century – with many images taken secretively so the lovers didn’t get caught

[quote]‘The repeated and identifiable poses can be seen again and again. Identical poses from two, three, 10 couples could span 70 years or more and be represented by several countries, over different decades, even in different centuries.’

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by Anonymousreply 74Last Saturday at 10:51 AM


by Anonymousreply 1Last Thursday at 10:25 PM


by Anonymousreply 2Last Thursday at 10:32 PM

Hot guys.

by Anonymousreply 3Last Thursday at 10:40 PM

YUM! Mamma's mussy is dripping like the radiator on a Studebaker!

by Anonymousreply 4Last Thursday at 10:44 PM

YUM! Mamma's mussy is dripping like the radiator on a Studebaker!

by Anonymousreply 5Last Thursday at 10:44 PM

Very beautiful.

One of the things I found interesting were these comments from the authors"

‘Patterns emerged. We began to notice that the organic poses from one couple were an exact mimic of another, such as the way they held hands, embraced, or just leaned into one another. The repeated and identifiable poses can be seen again and again. Identical poses from two, three, 10 couples could span 70 years or more and be represented by several countries, over different decades, even in different centuries. The subjects of Loving would not have seen each other’s images and copied them for themselves. The mirror images of their poses arose organically.’

In other words - the authors confirmed that love is love and is expressed the same between all humans - no matter which sexes it is between.

Here is the look inside and if you scroll down there is an extensive write up from the publishers with more information about the book.

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by Anonymousreply 6Last Thursday at 10:51 PM

Why do they look so dirty? Do they work in a coal mine or something?

by Anonymousreply 7Last Thursday at 11:01 PM

Possibly R7. They were different times and obviously photography was totally different than it is now.

by Anonymousreply 8Last Thursday at 11:04 PM

The guy on the right holding that sign has total BDF.

by Anonymousreply 9Last Thursday at 11:20 PM

What a beat-up!

Two drunk men lying on each there aren't lovers.

Two men sharing an armchair aren't lovers.

Two heterosexual bachelors advertising the fact aren't lovers.

Friends, colleagues, brothers, team-mates and fellow-soldiers aren't lovers.

by Anonymousreply 10Last Thursday at 11:42 PM

Fuck off, R10. Living in denial is obnoxious. Stop trying to erase us from history.

by Anonymousreply 11Last Thursday at 11:46 PM

I do agree with R10 that some of the photos could just be very good friends showing affection, not a romantic couple.

by Anonymousreply 12Last Friday at 12:18 AM

A few great images. I love the lead image that shows in OP's. Just good friends? Brothers? Who can say with certainty, but for me it looks for all the world like a different sort of fraternal relations, the look of one man who has just had his dick inside the other and both are so very much better for the experience.

The other I especially like is the dock scene, the very candid but perfect image with one goofy beaming man and the other more composed, but not quite.

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by Anonymousreply 13Last Friday at 12:47 AM

Gotta tell ya I had the same thought. There was a time when men felt free to be openly affectionate with their buddies. Now days they worry about being tabbed as (sotto voce) "gay".

I visited Italy a number of years ago and one of the first things I noticed was the men there were also very comfortable being physically affectionate with their buds. They'd walk arm in arm, drape an arm around the other, even briefly hold hands with one another. It was so nice to see that they didn't think twice about it.

It's hard to say - certainly the pic with the men passionately kissing seems definitive but for some of the others...

by Anonymousreply 14Last Friday at 12:58 AM

Though I hardly think you'd sit on another guy's lap if you're just good friends, even in the 1850s.

by Anonymousreply 15Last Friday at 1:04 AM

Which one's the top? I suspect the one on the right.

by Anonymousreply 16Last Friday at 1:12 AM


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by Anonymousreply 17Last Friday at 1:19 AM

Not a fatty in the bunch.

by Anonymousreply 18Last Friday at 1:26 AM

How do these authors know what the pictures document? Did they research the men to determine they were lovers? I mean really! Have the authors ever lived in cultures where hetero men are warm and affectionate with each other?

I like some of the photos and men, though. This one is sweet.

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by Anonymousreply 19Last Friday at 2:33 AM

Found those photos really poignant and beautiful.

by Anonymousreply 20Last Friday at 3:18 AM

They just look like close friends to me. Editor, please act.

by Anonymousreply 21Last Friday at 3:22 AM

In fact isn't it possible they are brothers? Similar mouths, chins, and ears, and body size.

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by Anonymousreply 22Last Friday at 3:30 AM

[quote]Though I hardly think you'd sit on another guy's lap if you're just good friends, even in the 1850s.

I saw this in Italy traveling there in the 1980s. It was totally routine on trains, in parks, etc. There would be ragazzi and ragazze together, bantering and talking shit, and a guy might sit on another guy's lap, and not only when another seat wasn't available. Handholding between guy friends has also been routine in some cultures, with no homo. I can believe that we're misinterpreting a few of those old photos; it's too easy to read our assumptions into images from other places and times.

by Anonymousreply 23Last Friday at 3:41 AM

I agree that most of these couples are probably not lovers. We forget that when photography was primarily a rare, studio experience, the photographer was in charge of posing the subjects. That explains why so many of the photos are similarly posed.

I have photos of my grandad in similar poses with eight different friends. We cousins used to snicker at the photos, but it turned out that when my grandad was emigrating to the states, all his friends got together and each paid for a photo with him. They got one copy, and grandad got eight.

by Anonymousreply 24Last Friday at 3:43 AM

[quote]How do these authors know what the pictures document? [bold]Did they research the men to determine they were lovers?[/bold]

No, unless the photographs are well documented (a huge rarity), that's an impossible thing to do, especially when buying random photos at antiques markets and auctions.

It's just a personal collection of photographs assembled by two gay collectors as images that suggest men in love with each other. There are no guarantees or certifications.

Expressions of straight and gay sexual attraction or ties of family or friendship or male affection change dramatically not only across time and place and from one individual to another within any time and place.

by Anonymousreply 25Last Friday at 3:44 AM

DL would tell you that every last one of those fellows was a gold-star gay, R23.

by Anonymousreply 26Last Friday at 3:45 AM

Some very nice tailoring in some of the photos.

by Anonymousreply 27Last Friday at 3:56 AM


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by Anonymousreply 28Last Friday at 6:59 AM

Naturists and biologists jumped through hoops to explain away homosexual behavior in animals in any other way they could. It's bias, and it's erasure. With an open mind, you see homosexuality in nature nearly everywhere.

It's the same here... it's sad to see even gay men on a gay board trying to make up justifications and rationalizations to erase gay men from history. I've had enough of "Oh, they're just very good friends" for a lifetime. Stop it.

by Anonymousreply 29Last Friday at 7:01 AM

R29 has stated her boundaries

by Anonymousreply 30Last Friday at 7:07 AM

R29 oh please, nobody is denying homo love through the centuries? The specific question is - how do the authors KNOW these couples are lovers?

by Anonymousreply 31Last Friday at 7:19 AM

Yes, R31, they're not authors and they're certainly not historians. They're hucksters gossiping about the dead in order to sell uncopyrighted merchandise.

by Anonymousreply 32Last Friday at 7:30 AM

R29, it’s not gay men jumping through hoops to explain away photographic evidence of ancient gays. It’s Russians, fraus and trans.

by Anonymousreply 33Last Friday at 7:31 AM

What R31 said. An open mind also lets you acknowledge different generations/centuries and their different ways of expressing themselves. I'm ready to believe a 1950s snapshot of two men holding hands on Cape Cod is gay. A posed studio photo of two men holding hands in the 1860s is as likely to show two non-erotic friends as it is to show a male-male couple using the norms of that time to go under the radar.

by Anonymousreply 34Last Friday at 7:32 AM

Straight women ruin everything, particularly old photos of men showing affection to one another

by Anonymousreply 35Last Friday at 7:33 AM

All I can think of when I see photos of people from that era is that they didn't bathe very often so sex must have been disgusting.

by Anonymousreply 36Last Friday at 7:53 AM

The "not married but willing to be" seems more likely to be two men looking for wives, not to be married to each other (which was a completely outlandish concept for most of history.)

by Anonymousreply 37Last Friday at 7:56 AM

Give it up R10 . This is DL , where every man born since time began is GAY,GAY,GAY ! 99% of those pictures are just good friends posing together ,but thats the straights revisionist history . GAY !

by Anonymousreply 38Last Friday at 8:05 AM


by Anonymousreply 39Last Friday at 8:13 AM

Wow, this thread has unleashed some rabid Fiona ("you think everyone is GAY!") Fangurls.

You will never get the "proof" you demand: sworn depositions, court papers, digitized evidence of homosexual acts, feelings, relationships. Because heterosexuality is your default setting. And then you will reject photographic evidence when it does exist.

Question: when have American men, particularly in the 19th century, ever been physically affectionate and demonstrative with one another in platonic relationships?

This is the same line of BS reasoning that some historians use to deny Lincoln's letters to his same-sex lover.

by Anonymousreply 40Last Friday at 8:29 AM

So beautiful.

by Anonymousreply 41Last Friday at 8:30 AM

R10 see R40 .

by Anonymousreply 42Last Friday at 8:30 AM

I'm pretty sure these two guys were screwing each other....

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by Anonymousreply 43Last Friday at 8:32 AM

These two men had a secret love.

We may have absolutely no documentation. But now that they're dead we can claim them to be gay lovers like us.

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by Anonymousreply 44Last Friday at 2:10 PM

In many of the photos in the actual book (such as the one of the mock wedding) male couples are holding a single umbrella (on a perfectly sunny day) which was, according to the authors and other sources, an indication that the men were not just friends and was a way to signal that. In fact, in the book there is another picture of the two young men holding the wanting to get married sign holding an umbrella and each other. That sign about wishing to get married was held up in a picture by a single man to advertise he was looking for a bride. Two men wouldn't pose together like that of they were just friends seeking wives. And the other photo with the umbrella is more inducative of them being more than friends.

by Anonymousreply 45Last Friday at 3:04 PM

[quote]r29 it's sad to see even gay men on a gay board trying to make up justifications and rationalizations to erase gay men from history. I've had enough of "Oh, they're just very good friends" for a lifetime. Stop it.

Oh, shove it up your crabby ass.

A lot of the men in the pics might be involved romantically, or they might not. That’s all anyone is saying.

The similar collection “Who’s a Pretty Boy, Then?” (1998) does a good job at actually taking you back to an earlier time through its introduction, explaining a specific time when men and women had their deepest emotional bonds in same sex friendships, maybe with those you’d risked your life beside in a war.

We can’t deny that the portraits are homoerotic (to our eyes, and maybe the sitters’) but it’s also ignorant to assume ALL the men pictured were gay, or sexually involved.

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by Anonymousreply 46Last Friday at 4:17 PM
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by Anonymousreply 47Last Friday at 4:22 PM

I don't need to be psychologically validated by pictures of unknown men being close to each other in unknown circumstances.

Lots of men kiss each other but it has nothing to do with my needs for self-validation.

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by Anonymousreply 48Last Friday at 4:23 PM


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by Anonymousreply 49Last Friday at 4:31 PM

I don't want to open R48 because it's behind a paywall in my country.

Does the Guardian newspaper endorse this commercial product which seems to all about emotion and nothing to do with genuine research into historical facts or cultural behaviours?

by Anonymousreply 50Last Friday at 4:37 PM

It’s not a reaction to or analysis of the book. The article just reproduces some images and quotes the author.

It’s kind of a standard promotional piece.

by Anonymousreply 51Last Friday at 4:40 PM

Thank you, R51. The Guardian gets occasionally two-faced with heavy Marxist article propaganda alongside with mindless promotional pieces for clothes and restaurants in its 'Lifestyle' section.

by Anonymousreply 52Last Friday at 4:46 PM

[quote]These two men had a secret love.

Once I had one, too.

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by Anonymousreply 53Last Friday at 4:55 PM

Calamity Jane and Doris Kappelhoff fornicated and produced babies but because they are dead we claim them as gay.

by Anonymousreply 54Last Friday at 5:00 PM

r10 is a cunt, but I must admit that some of the things he says crossed my mind. I, however, am no expert on socio-physical behavior in the 19th century, and therefore I cannot say for certain whether this type of closeness was normal among heterosexual men at the time. I bet r10 doesn't know it either, and therefore he should express his skepticism with more humility.

For example, about the photo in which the two lads are holding a paper saying, "Not married but willing", r10 says that they were merely "advertising" to girls, but what proof does he have of that? Was that photo sent by one of the guys to a newspaper? And if that was their purpose, to advertise to girls, why would they have chosen a phrase so ambiguous that it could easily be interpreted as a confession of love for each other and made them look ridiculous in people who saw it? "Girls, call us", "Girls, write us" would have been a much better message if that was what they were looking for.

The project's authors have seen hundreds of these photos, and they must have knowledge and arguments that neither he nor the others have here. I imagine that the selection was made according to some method and that the authors know from the context where the pictures were found that the men portrayed in the photos were not brothers or anything like that, as some are speculating here, and that they were not meant to be advertise the men in them to women.

Returning to the question of physical intimacy between men: I have some knowledge of the literature of that century, and I have already read a lot of biographies of my two favorite philosophers of the period, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and I know, based on what I read, that even these caustic men could write very warm letters to male friends. In fact, intense pathos can be seen in many letters sent by famous people of the period no matter the sex of the author and that of the recipient.

However, neither in these letters nor in the literature of the period is it possible to argue that physical proximity between men was commonplace, that sitting on each other's laps, holding hands, resting their heads together, was normal behavior among adult men.

Datalounge is, on average, one of the best educated forums on the internet, and I imagine that many people here know at least one classic of the time. Is this kind of intimacy between men seen in Wuthering Heights, for example? I read it more than once in my youth, and as far as I can remember, it is not. I know that in Moby Dick, there is a scene depicting two men sleeping together in bed, with their arms around each other. But this scene, by itself, does not indicate that this type of intimacy was common and, in fact, a critic of the time attacked the book precisely because of it, saying that the book “violated and defaced” “the most sacred associations of life ”(link below). Most likely, this kind of physical closeness between men had the same meaning at the time that it has today: that of passionate love, not brotherly friendship.

Another thing to consider is that, although photos were common from the second half of the 19th century, we do not have photos of any celebrities of the time in the positions shown in the photos. It's only anonymous men in these gay photos. And that, in my view, is an argument in favor of seeing them as homoerotic poem at the time. Because, if the whole thing was so innocent, I bet we would have many pictures of Nietzsche sitting on Richard Wagner's lap, of Nathan Hawthorne holding hands with Herman Melville, and so on - but there aren't.

I only know of one celebrity of the period who has pictures like that - Oscar Wilde -, which, of course, does not help the skeptical argument here. But the fact that, even then, such photos were compromising is illustrated by the fact that not even other gay celebrities of the period, such as Walt Whitman, dared to portray themselves in this type of position with other men.

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by Anonymousreply 55Last Friday at 5:14 PM

Raimbaud and Verlaine were lovers at that time

by Anonymousreply 56Last Friday at 9:03 PM

R55 So are you saying that Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were both intimate and gay?

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by Anonymousreply 57Last Friday at 9:25 PM


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by Anonymousreply 58Last Friday at 9:42 PM

[quote]...but because they are dead we claim them as gay.

No one ever gets bitchy and defensive when an old photo of unknown origin and unidentified subjects is labeled "[heterosexual] Married couple, Brighton Pier, 1930s." Maybe the wedding rings were from the spouses they were cheating on. Maybe they were brother and sister each with a spouse not pictured, maybe those "spouses" were gay and lesbian. There's no way of knowing what a photo really depicts, it's what a photo conveys that's more important.

Of course the book of these collectors is subjective. How could it be otherwise? They are not historians of photography who claim to have assembled a collection of documented instances of gay men in love. They put forth their obviously personal criteria for selection, but it's their criteria, not yours, not mine.

What's the point in acting like it's a fucking hate crime to assert, without irrefutable evidence, that photos of pairs of long dead people appear to be gay? It's no more a crime than to assert that they appear to be straight.

by Anonymousreply 59Last Saturday at 2:14 AM

Geez what skin to you have in this game R59. Nobody says the book or authors are hate crimes. Just having a discussion about other possibilities to the contexts of the photos.

You do know that "History of Photography" is a quite big and well-established field in Art History and requires some rigor including historical research to determine the real contexts of photos and their uses and meanings in that context. If this book isn't filled with footnotes from scholarship, it should be taken for what it is, amateur musings of "what if". That's all some of us are saying.

For comparison purposes - was Abraham Lincoln a bisexual man who conducted long-term physical and loving relationships with men? It's an interesting theory based on info that survives to our tines. There are different ways to explore it. One way is the historian's way. Another might be based on political economy and its current iterations, which can and do get away with "lightly" researched historical revisionism.

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by Anonymousreply 60Last Saturday at 2:32 AM

I agree with all that you say, R60. Clearly it's a book not by rigorous photo historians but by collectors (with backgrounds in art and performing arts, not Art History.) There's no forward by an esteemed art historian or historian (or not that is mentioned), and the authors' criteria is entirely their own and subjective. It's a picture book, with a point of view, like "Wisconsin Death Trip," not a work of scholarship.

Certainly the "Not married but willing..." lead photograph seems suspect to me for the reasons others have mentioned, and some images look emphatically gay to me, some possibly so, and others not—and the truth is I could be wrong in either case, as could the authors of a book about their collection where the emphasis is on the images not on the forensics and proof.

If two authors had assembled a collection of unidentified subjects and contexts from across various continents and published selected images in a book, "Loving: A Photographic History of Men [bold]and Women[/bold] in Love 1850s–1950s" no one would get ruffled asking the questions: How do we know for certain that they are straight? Are they just making funny poses? Maybe they are brother and sister?"

My gripe was with the posters who seem to take offense that someone might mistakenly be tagged gay when they were in fact not, as though it were a sort of crime or a shameful reflection. If someone asks if I have a wife, I say "Oh no, I'm gay as can be. No wife but I have a husband." I'm not offended by the mistaken assumption any more than a straight man should be if asked if he has a husband or a straight woman should be if asked if she has a wife. I'm disappointed when I see people react as though it's an insult to be labeled as gay, that's all.

by Anonymousreply 61Last Saturday at 3:41 AM

LGBT erasure IS a hate crime.

by Anonymousreply 62Last Saturday at 7:54 AM


by Anonymousreply 63Last Saturday at 7:59 AM

Isn't that a young Stephen Baldwin in R58?

by Anonymousreply 64Last Saturday at 8:00 AM

[quote] There's no forward

Oh, dear.

by Anonymousreply 65Last Saturday at 8:31 AM

The guys holding a sign saying "Not married but willing to be" is obviously referring to the two single guys who are willing to get married. To women, not each other. No homophobia is involved in this opinion, more like common sense.

by Anonymousreply 66Last Saturday at 8:36 AM

In the OP photo, the guy on the left could have been turned into one gorgeous man with a good bath and haircut. He had a very sexy face. Now, the guy on the right looked like a young Donald Trump. No help for him.

by Anonymousreply 67Last Saturday at 8:38 AM

R67 the guy on the left is a dead ringer for my ex boyfriend. I sent that picture to him, and he laughed, and said that another ex of his had sent him the exact same image an hour ago.

I guess there’s truth about “gay faces” being common.

by Anonymousreply 68Last Saturday at 9:02 AM

Don't want to offend anybody but the fact is if you ever took a picture with friends you can be affectionate and hugging, it doesn't mean you're lovers. Some of the old photos look like gay lovers and some look like friends. Today we have Instagram and you can see hundreds of pictures of straight guys with their arms over each other's shoulders or being mildly affectionate, it doesn't seem gay, and when the guys are straight, it obviously doesn't. There are so many pictures of teenage Army and Navy buddies with their arms over each other's shoulders, it doesn't mean these people are fucking. It doesn't mean they're not. But only 1 out of 10 people are gay in the world. Many more are straight and have normal affection and aren't self-conscious about it.

by Anonymousreply 69Last Saturday at 9:13 AM

I think another reason there’s so many couples in the early studio shots is it was less expensive to go for just one exposure, rather than two separate ones of two different subjects. So friends saved money by posing together.

I love the affection in the photos.

by Anonymousreply 70Last Saturday at 9:27 AM

[quote]But only 1 out of 10 people are gay in the world.

Link? Documentation on this statistic? Anyone?

by Anonymousreply 71Last Saturday at 9:40 AM

Google it, you lazy whore ^

by Anonymousreply 72Last Saturday at 9:59 AM

It's a highly questionable approximation.

People have been asserting any number between 3 in a 100 to 1 in 7. A lot depends on WHAT you're actually counting... OUT homosexual men? All homosexuals, in or out? Bisexuals too? Trans? People ACTIVELY in homosexual relationships? Or all, including those currently in heterosexual relationships?

There are a lot of gray areas that allow people to basically pick and choose the numbers they want.

My anecdotal evidence for "10 percent" is purely anecdotal. At my first job, at a computer company (hardly an industry that LGBT+ people swarmed to... we're talking programmers), each hallway in my building had ten offices. One person per office. This was back in the 80s when such things were actually common, before the crimes-against-humanity that are "open offices". Anyway, each hallway had one gay person that I knew of, except two... one had no gay people, one had TWO. So it averaged that 1 in 10 programmers at that company, in the midwest, out in the suburbs, in the late 80s, was gay. Homosexual.

So that 1-in-10 figure strikes me as relatively reasonable, but it's certainly no lower than that if you also factor in bisexuals, LGBT+ etc.

by Anonymousreply 73Last Saturday at 10:11 AM

I really think that the book’s thesis is dodgy at best. As others mentioned before the forms of male affection varies through space and time. To view those photos through our modern lenses would be bad scholarship at worst and wishful thinking at best. This is one of the reasons that gay studies isn’t taken seriously. It’s based on assumptions and not based on quantitative and qualitative data. As a gay guy, I find the book sorta of cringe.

by Anonymousreply 74Last Saturday at 10:51 AM
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