“Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s” by Hugh Nine and Neal Treadwell— Romantic Same-Sex Love

Nini, Hugh and Neal Treadwell. “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s”,  5 Continents Editions Srl, 2020.

Romantic Same-Sex Love

Amos Lassen

Every once-in-a-while, I find a book that takes my breath away with its beauty. Such a book is  Hugh Nini’s and Neal Treadwell’s “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s”. It is quite basically a look atthe history of romantic love between men in moving and tender vernacular photographs taken between the years 1850 and 1950. It is a visual narrative of great sensitivity that allows us to see until-now an unpublished collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos taken in a variety of contexts, both private and public. The photos were taken when male partnerships were often illegal. These photos were found at flea markets, in shoe boxes, family archives, old suitcases, and later online and at auctions and includes photos from all over the world: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Latvia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Serbia.

The subjects are identified as couples by the look in the eyes of two people in love. Body language is subtly evident  and inscriptions were often coded. Included here are ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, glass negatives, tin types, cabinet cards, photo postcards, photo strips, photomatics, and snapshots that give us a century 100 of social history and the development of photography. The photographs – many fragile from age or handling – have been digitized using a technology  that was derived from that used on surveillance satellites and available in only five places around the world. The book, gives measure to its message in every way. Couples in love tell their own story for the first time at a time when joy and hope and human connectivity were crucial lifelines to our better selves. “Loving” is about “our spirit and resilience, our capacity for bliss, and our longing for the shared truths of love.”

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