Sunday, April 14, 2013

Manly Affections: Robert Gant

Men embracing and kissing. Gant, Robert, 1854?-1936
So here we have another vintage view of two men. Many--though not all--of the images of men that I've become fascinated with are ambiguous (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). While the images might show two men touching in ways that are currently only reserved for men who identify as gay (or have same-sex attraction), in days of yore, men had more latitude to express friendship through touch and physical closeness.

This image isn't ambiguous at all. These men are straight up making out. Or are they?

As with many of the other images I've collected, their original sources were either not documented (does anyone believe in references anymore?) or obliterated by history.

I did a little investigation of this image entitled "Good Bye" to see what I might be able to find out. The story of this embrace was fairly easy to extract from the internet.

The image was taken by Robert Gant (1854-1936), a photographer from New Zealand. For those of you with a great deal of interest, you might consider checking out Chris Brickell's book "Manly Affections." Brickell wrote the following about his book (you can also check out a YouTube clip :

What if New Zealand's male settlers were not all as stoic and unemotional as we tend to assume? What if homoeroticism existed alongside - or even at the heart of - male society? What if the colonial social pattern actively facilitated intimate and sexual relationships between Pakeha men? 
Manly Affections doesn't provide any clear answers, but it does explore the questions. It focuses on the life and photography of Robert Gant, who left us some 450 late nineteenth and early twentieth century images. Part biography, part cultural history, part visual analysis and part provocative speculation, this book project extends the analysis begun in Chapter One of Mates & Lovers. Along the way, I place homoeroticism within a broader discussion of masculinity and community life, and I discuss locally-circulating representations in their global context. The book will include approximately 150 images. While most histories of same-sex desire and intimacy explore urban lives, this project looks at small towns and rural locales: Gant spent much of his time in the Wairarapa settlements of Masterton and Greytown. In Gant's photographs, life on farms and in homesteads mingles with classicism, light bondage, romantic friendship and theatrical dress-ups. Gant and his enigmatic friends wove together Pakeha settler masculinity, emotion and eroticism in surprising and fascinating ways.

Take the time to watch this YouTube clip that the publisher of Brickell's book put together of Gant's images. You can also listen to a podcast about Robert Gant here.

FFor more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their DogAdam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

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