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Exploring Same-Sex Love Since the 19th Century

A new book released recently, Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s, seeks to share timeless images of men in love with the world. Pulling together hundreds of pictures, taken from the Nini-Treadwell Collection, the book explores how homosexuality and homosexual relationships are as old as the hills themselves.


Despite these being just black and white photographs, they show something deeper: couples, across classes, social backgrounds, ages, and countries, who have paused for a moment to capture their love in a medium that has survived beyond. It is worth noting that an overwhelming majority of these pictures will have been taken before homosexuality was even legal in many countries, and if it was, their relationships would have still largely been taboo. 


Yet through the lenses of cameras, these couples have managed to preserve that timeless love, and it can be shown in an age more understanding of who they are. From the young couple happily posing with a sign that reads “Not married but willing to be”, to soldiers in embrace having climbed the Alps for a quiet space together, these pictures capture the raw emotion that they were otherwise forced to conceal. 


Through these pictures, you can also watch the passage of time: how hairstyles and fashion changes, how society and technology progressed, and how photography evolved. Many are photobooth images, showing the level of secrecy the couple faced in having to be the photographer, subject, and keeper of their love, but may include others, or were clearly taken by friends. Each has a heartwarming story behind it. One, dated to 1910, even shows a number of same-sex couples dancing, titled Cowboy Dance “Stag”


Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell have painstakingly tracked down and collected these photos, storing them careful to preserve and exhibit them. Their albums, the Nini-Treadwell Collection, shows countless stories of gay couples existing at a time when society wanted to pretend they didn’t, and we’re all the more grateful for their effort in presenting this collection. 


You can buy the book here.



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