Friday, April 22, 2011

Positive (Vintage) Images, (Part Four)

So I went looking for a single vintage photograph that presented gay men in a positive way--because we could use all the positive images of gay couples we can find--and I hit the motherlode.

I remember the art book publisher Harry N. Abrams released a book filled with pictures like these some years ago, and, as I turned the pages, one after another, I found each one life-affirming.  Each validated what Chris and I share together all these years later.

Gay couples have been around forever.  We are only a few in a long line of men who loved other men. Imagine how subversive--and frightening--it must have felt way back when to have your picture taken with another man in these ways.  

I hope you enjoy the images.  Let me know what you think.

And my favorite:

All images are from


I found the book I referred to above.  It's called Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918, by David Deitcher.  According to, it's still available in soft cover.


  1. I loooooove these images. Pure, Honest expressions of real love are the most beautiful things out there.

  2. You've hit it on the head, Heather. I don't want to sound like a prude, but there's nothing filthy or pornographic with these images, like so many pictures of gay men today. I find the vintage pics beautiful and refreshing and inspirational--a truer representation of the love I share with Chris.

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

  3. These are great Rick, they seem much more natural than modern images of gay couples you see today. Maybe they weren't recognized as gay couples at the time, but they do have a certain feeling of innocent and natural affection. Maybe male closeness was more acceptable then, than it is today!

  4. Doug, as I read your comment, I was struck by how these photographs were very much "of their time." Culturally, North America, where I believe most of them were taken, was very different. There was, as you say, an innocence and a naturalness, so much more than today.

    Unfortunately, we've lost all of that in favor of something that is so "in your face" now. The posing of the men is not at all vulgar or disgusting, and the affection shared between the pairs seems real and beautiful. A big inspiration for me.

    If my instincts are right, I don't think male closeness was more acceptable then as opposed to today. In fact, I think it was much worse. I can't imagine that, such a short time ago, gay men were able to be more open with each other in terms of their feelings. Which makes what is captured here even more incredible and touching.

    I love looking at these pictures and wondering who these men were, what their lives were like, and how we could get back some of that innocence and purity today. I don't believe that will ever happen, because the lion is out of the cage, so to speak. But it's fun to imagine.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Those are really beautiful, Rick. Thanks for sharing them. Do you mind if I pass your tip on to other blogs I read?

    (sorry I've been out of touch...missed you!)

  6. Sarah, it's wonderful to hear from you again. I thought I'd lost you as a reader, but I'm so grateful I didn't.

    I've searched this post for a tip, but I couldn't find one. What tip are you referring to? I'm sure your sharing it at other blogs is not a problem.

    By the way, when you have the chance, please share with me and my readers how things are going with your volunteer work. I'm anxious to hear about your experiences working with LGBTQ youth in Calgary.

    Thanks for checking out my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment. You know I appreciate it. I hope to hear from you again very soon. Take care.

  7. Hey, Rick! Oh, I just meant the "tip" about the book itself, and where to find's such a great resource, how cool to have those old pictures! I didn't mean to be out of touch, it's just been a crazy couple of weeks, and I've gotten myself a little behind right before tax time, oy. Anyway, I'm going to write you an email about the volunteer work. There wasn't much to write at first, as I tried to keep a low profile while the kids got to know me, but, I'm getting to know them a bit better now! I love it. Talk to you soon!

  8. @Sarah: Absolutely, Sarah. If you think someone would benefit from knowing about this book, I heartily suggest you let him or her know. Please, by all means.

    Thanks for the explanation of why we haven't heard from you much lately. I completely understand the craziness you're going through. All of our lives are like that, at least from time to time.

    And I really look forward to hearing more about your experience as a volunteer. I know you're making a difference in the lives of anyone you interact with because you are so positive and supportive. It will be a pleasure to read about when you have the chance.

    @Katie: Hi, Katie. A quick thank-you for now regarding the personal email you sent me. I'll write back in a couple of days, after I return from my day trip to Victoria tomorrow.

    Thanks for your comment and for your thoughtful words. I appreciate what you write about the tenderness possible between people of the same sex. I know it's possible because I live it every day, and it is to be honored, really, by anyone who knows what real and true love is.

    Thanks again for your interest in my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment.

  9. I was searching for material to compose a video based on vintage pictures when I discovered your blog. I enjoyed too much: a space full of sensibility, good taste, good information and love. Thanks so much the pleasure you gave to me. Antonio Augusto from Brazil

  10. Antonio Augusto, thank you so much for finding my blog, for spending time here, and for writing such a wonderful comment.
    I intend for this place-this family, really--to be warm and welcoming. I want to present something very different from other blogs and websites centered on sexual orientation. I hope to uplift people and to help them feel better about themselves. Judging by what you wrote, I think I've succeeded in doing that.
    I hope you will visit often, and I look forward to hearing from you again.

  11. These pictures are so pure, so beautiful. I couldn't help but tilt my head, smile, and sigh at the love that is so perfectly captured here. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. What a great comment, Donna.
    It's so important to me to present the love between gay men in a positive and uplifting way. Previously, I wrote a few posts using photographs from present day ads in Canadian newspapers (TD Canada Trust), but I wanted to recognize the men who came before us, those who were true trailblazers when, you can appreciate, it was VERY difficult to love someone of the same gender.
    I believe the world needs to see our love presented in all it's glory and beauty and normalcy. I think these pictures from decades past help to do just that.
    Thanks for your interest in my blog and for taking the time to write a supportive comment. I really appreciate it.

  13. It's important when looking at vintage images like this to not project our modern understanding of men, relationships, intimacy, and sexuality back in time. In another era, heterosexual men had much more freedom to express friendship with physical intimacy. The *vast* number of men in these pictures probably did not have same sex attraction that is similar to what we would identify as gay love today.

    Most of these men were straight, and were captured on film (or tin) expressing intimacy and closeness between brothers and friends. We see them as gay now, because straight men are not allowed to touch based on our current social structures.

    If you ever travel to some countries--particularly the middle east or India, it's not all that uncommon to see heterosexual men walking down the street holding hands. As the western world exports their homonegativity, this is rapidly disappearing too.

    Still -- the images are tender and sweet and lovable. They remind us of the closeness men used to have -- and speak to the tantalizing mystery that men who love men might have been able to hide in plain sight.

  14. Well said, Jason. I couldn't have stated it better myself.

    Thanks for your interest in my blog and for your contribution to a better understanding of what's going on in these historical photographs. I appreciate it.