A luminously beautiful photograph by Wilhelm von Gloeden, taken in the sumptuous setting of his own Mediterranean garden (the very same spot as seen here); white foliage with velvety-bloom, a fallen leaf against his foot, the hollyhock grasped lazily in one hand. Do take a moment to view this gorgeous portrait full size, as the clarity and detail are quite marvellous, we can savour every last curve and contour of his lovely form, right down to the creases in his skin. In the upper border of the negative is marked the catalogue number (1600) and the precise date on which this photograph was taken, the 16th of June, 1899.
What a wonderfully warm overcoat this chap wears for his photographic portrait in the late 19th century, we do not see many dressed in heavy winter clothing and this looks a grand example indeed.
Captured on camera around 1895, a fine-looking young man poses for Guglielmo Plüschow with great poise and confidence, fixing us with those deep dark eyes as he displays his handsome well-toned body with pride.
Grateful thanks to reader Ollie for his kind words of appreciation, and donation of vintage photographs to add to the collection here, the first being this lovely shot of soldiers expressing their affection on camera.
"Hello, I a great admirer of your blog. Definitely one of the most fascinating and comprehensive collection of homoerotica and vintage gay lives captured in the late 1800s and early 20th century.
I’m not sure if you have already posted this image, so I apologize if you have. The image is a sweet WWI era photo of two amorous soldiers (of which nationality I am not sure) sharing a well-hidden kiss, while a third friend seeming watches in awe and feigned disgust (but, is obviously already aware of the romance).”
Milo Brinn, 1895.
"Milo Brinn (born Luigi Borra) performed feats of strength and took on all comers as a wrestler at the famous Folies Berger in Paris. Brinn’s act at the Folies consisted of tumbling and gymnastics, hand balancing, figure display, heavy juggling and feats of supporting and carrying weights. He could perform a crucifix with 66lb. in each hand and could do a one-leg squat holding 60 kg." From OldtimeStrongman.com
There exists this well-known 19th Century piece of homoerotica featuring two semi-clad sailors (or, infinitely more likely, two young men dressed as sailors for a short time only!), one of the very first photographs in my collection, so I was truly delighted to discover a second shot from the same set. All garments dispensed with besides one distinctive black hat, this lacks the endearing charm of the first but is considerably more explicit!
ca. 1890, [portrait of two gentlemen entangled]
via Not on Your Tintype: Collection of American Tintypes, Vol. 1, Andrew Daneman
Whether mere silliness between pals or relatives, a platonic affection openly displayed in a lost era where men were simply more comfortable with physical intimacy, or genuine feelings of attraction disguised as tomfoolery to keep a secret safe, it is impossible not to smile when seeing such cheerful chaps playing up to the camera.
Photographed by Thomas Eakins in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, during the 1880s, an unusual scene featuring not just the model but two of the artists working on their depictions of his form. The picture is titled Charles Cox painting in the Art Student’s League : we can assume Mr Cox is the chap with the prominent white shirt sleeve, but take a careful look and you can spy a second, dark-clothed, student toward the left.
A magnificent young man from Taormina poses in photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden’s own garden; with its rambling, scrambling, leafy climbers and classically-inspired urns and pots spilling over with yet more plants, it provides a delightfully picturesque setting, an air of slipping into wildness and decay with the passage of time, while the strapping fellow posing there that day remains forever young and perfect.
Perhaps a little later than most of my choices (a judgement based, with no known date to go by, on the design of their ties, and the general spontaneity of style seeming much more like the amateur photography which became popular only after the Great War) but I just could not resist including such a wonderful moment captured on camera, for it is still a very long time ago, and a thing to be treasured!
A stunning solo portrait by the great Wilhelm von Gloeden, a serious-faced, sultry-looking young man, so beautifully bedecked with a garland of flowers, naturally lit with sunlight and deep shadow to bring out the lovely contours of his face and shoulders.
Immaculately turned out chaps from the latter part of the 19th Century, their affectionate close companionship clear in the easy intimacy of their pose together.
Karl Bulla - A wrestler, 1912
From the St Petersburg Archive of Cinema and Photo Documents
For the wrestling fans, of which we seem to have an ever-growing number!
Oh, how magnetic those eyes, those deep-set and dark-shadowed soulful eyes! To have known him in life, to have the gaze of those big brown eyes fall upon my own! Tear your attention away from them, if you can, and dwell a little on the other details which make him so appealing; the well-muscled arm, the smooth spread of his chest, dark and curling hair trailing up a toned stomach, heat-swelled veins standing out on the elegantly draped forearm. A picture of masculine perfection! It seems churlish to point out any slight error with such a wonderful depiction of the full bloom of youthful manhood, and yet there is a fault - the focus picks up sharply on the flowers behind, leaving him just a little blurred. I can see why the photograph was not discarded for the error, who could resist treasuring this young man’s image!
Surely a contender for the most bizarre caption ever attached to a vintage picture, the strips of text on this photograph by Frank Eugene Smith in 1900 read as follows :
Keep a Movin’! For Monkey * Fan * Tiger or Dove
Dough or Fame: Same Old Game as Love
Oddness of that inscription aside, the image itself shows Eugene’s characteristic flair for composition, lighting, and the most dramatic, captivating of poses; a master of early art photography.