Monday, May 27, 2013

Mondays with Alan: Desire and Control

Memorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor Love

Courtesy of Indiana University
While selecting some images of vintage military men for my previous Memorial Day post, my eyes lingered for a few moments on this picture of two sailors kissing. I wondered if it was an actual vintage photo or if, perhaps, it was a more contemporary photo made to look vintage. I surprised when looked into this image. I found a whole lot more than I expected!

This picture looked vaguely familiar to me. In 1988 an artist collective, Gran Fury, in association with ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) started producing social protest art about the AIDS pandemic. I was peripherally involved in the Cleveland ACT-UP chapter and later participated in some protests with the group in NYC.

No wonder this image looked familiar. It was one of the most iconic works of art that Gran Fury made--I probably saw it a hundred or more times when I was in my early 20s. 

If you want to do some deep research, check out this New York Times article When Political Art Mattered, visit the New York Public Library and explore their Grand Fury collection, and read this review of a Gran Fury art exhibition at NYU.

This isn't the end of our journey in this history of this image of two sailors kissing. The original image was displayed at an exhibition at the Kinsey Institute Art Gallery on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. As part of an exhibit called Love and War, the original image leaves no mystery about the feelings these two sailors had for each other. Read a review of the exhibition here

The original image is handsome and sexy, erotic and tender. It's also NSFW, so you'll have to journey to my Tumblr page to see the original version.

I still don't know when, where, or why the image was produced. I've emailed the curator at the Kinsey Gallery to see if she has any additional information. If I learn more, I'll update this post.

For 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.

Hi Jason,

Thanks for contacting me about the photograph of the kissing sailors from World War II.  We have several photographs from that shoot, which was done in San Diego by an unknown photographer.  I learned more about the images when someone from ACT UP contacted me a couple of years ago.  He said that one of the men in the photo saw the Gran Fury poster and contacted the ACT UP office to let them know that he and his boyfriend were the men in the image.  They were sailors in WWII who were approached by a photographer and invited to pose for him.  They then shipped out and never saw the photographer again.  This man had no idea that the photographs had been distributed until he saw the ACT UP campaign using the cropped version of one of the photos.  The full story is given in the catalog for the show "Gran Fury: Read My Lips" that was held in NY last year: 

With best wishes,


Catherine Johnson-Roehr
Curator, The Kinsey Institute
Indiana University

Memorial Day: Vintage Dancing Sailors

Sailors dancing with each other aboard USS OLYMPIA
So who can resist a picture of sailors dancing?

As with many of the images depicting intimacy and friendship between men, the image on the left originally came to me with no information. I don't like photos without captions--especially images of dancing sailors.

A simple Google image search brought me to the Library of Congress. This image was captured aboard the USS Olympia in 1899 by the photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston.

The Olympia was launched on November 5, 1892 and weighed in at 5,676 tons. The vessel's claim to fame was that it served as the flagship of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay during the 1898 Spanish-American war. The ship returned to port in Boston on October 10, 1899. It was reported that the officers and crew of the USS Olympia were feted and the ship was repainted complete with a gilded bow. The ship was decommissioned in November and placed in reserve.

Perhaps these images of the dancing sailors were taken as part of that party? Johnston's photos came the year the vessel was decommissioned. It wasn't specified if the picture was taken as part of the decommissioning ceremony or not.

Sailors aboard the OLYMPIA waltzing at tiffin time

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Curious Case of Two Men Embracing

This image caught my eye when I came across it yesterday. It has a intense degree of intimacy between these two young men that is absent in most of the vintage pictures I've been collecting of friendship between men.

Fingers intricately intertwined. Chin rested on a shoulder. Torsos and hips held close. A knee, caught in a sunbeam from long ago, bent and pressed against another man's leg.

These two guys are close.

They are very close.

Truth be told, the real reason this picture grabbed my attention is two of my friends (@LadyParabellum and @KateFowler03) are currently vacationing in Idaho. I'm guessing this is not a modern day scene they'll be seeing.

So who are these men? What story might they have to tell us?

First we'll have to look at the full picture. The image I originally came across is a crop. Some anonymous person on the internet decided to remove a significant portion of this story before posting it.  This isn't an uncommon thing in images that I found: many bloggers will crop pictures so they tell a more preferable story or focus in on a particular aspect of the picture. This particular image was also photoshopped and, as you'll see, transformed from a black and white negative to a sepia toned print.

You can even spend a significant amount of money to get a print of the image at various retailers. The image is available for free at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wants of Few/Needs of Many

via Dr Zuleyka Zevallos

Here is an interesting question: Why should the wants of the few outweigh the rights of the many?

I've been thinking about this evocative image on and off for most of the day. The message is deceptively clear--so deceptive in fact that I almost passed right on by without any additional thought.

Perhaps I stopped and lingered on the image a little more because I was getting ready to see the new incarnation of Start Trek Into Darkness later in the afternoon. Any self-respecting fan knows the famous line uttered by Spock in various versions of the show (see here, here, and here).

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few--or the one.

Of course our Captain Kirk messes this all with up with his dedication to love and friendship:

Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.

I got to thinking about this image and it began to reveal its complexity.  Here is a list of things that I thought about while looking at this picture:

  • What I perceive as a right might be perceived by another as a want.
  • What I perceive as a want might be perceived by another as a right
  • My rights might infringe upon another person's rights.
  • My rights might infringe upon another person's wants.
  • My wants might infringe upon another person's rights.
  • My wants might infringe upon another person's wants. 
  • Another person's rights might infringe on my rights
  • Another person's rights might infringe upon my wants.
  • Another person's wants might infringe upon my rights
  • Another person's wants might infringe upon my wants.
  • Who gets to decide what a right is?
  • Who doesn't get to decide what a right is?
  • Who gets to decide what a want is?
  • Who doesn't get to decide what a want is?
  • What is a want?
  • What is a right?
Pick any controversial issues facing our society today and pose these questions. You'll end up with more questions than answers. In our polarized society I think we shy away (or just plain avoid) asking these sorts of questions. We are replacing critical thinking with epistemologies and ontologies of personal revelation.

I know I have no answers here. Only questions. 

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let's Play Dress Up: Homelessness and Abercrombie

This wasn't very well thought out.

As a protest against the public comments of Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, someone got the bright idea to play dress up with homeless people. The notion is to embarrass Mike Jeffries by changing the brand: play dress up with homeless people by putting them in A&F skinny jeans and poor quality t-shrits.

It's a totally feel good protest, right? Donate to those who have less. Care for people shivering on the streets. Everyone can feel good. The big bad CEO is punished, homeless people have clothes, and we can all feel morally superior.

Let's be honest. This isn't what is really is going on in the video. We're using homeless people as a foil to bash, demean, and embarrass a company into better behavior. Were using the image of people many consider undesirable (homeless) in a brand's clothing to protest a company that feels certain types of women are undesirable (women over size 10).  

How is this a good idea? How can this possibly be anything other than demeaning toward homeless people? The last line of the YouTube clip sums it up well:

Together, we can make Abercrombie and Fitch the world's number one brand of homeless apparel. 

What does that even mean?

Homeless people. Those people who annoy you by asking for money. The ones you maybe step away from because you are afraid they might smell. The ones you probably walk past without even knowing. You know the sort--the ones that are invisible throw-away people to you. 

Those people.

Let's play dress up with them. Let's put the dirty disgusting homeless people in the "fancy" clothes from A&F so we can embarrass the shit out of Mike Jeffries. Let's make his brand synonymous with unwanted people--the dirty disgusting homeless people.

We'll bring down the value of the brand by displaying undesirable people in A&F branded clothing. That will teach them a lesson for being demeaning toward women who are above a certain clothing size.

No. This wasn't well thought out at all.

Homeless people aren't our playthings to play dress up with. They aren't an easily acquired prop to use for political gain. The campaign is neither cute or clever. It's a cruel abuse of people with very little power in this world. 

The homeless people you walk by deserve a lot more than a quick game of dress up with you.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Vintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram

Here is another vintage image that caught my eye. Like many of the others I've posted on Tumblr, I found it on a site that aggregated a lot of vintage photos but had no identifying data.

This one caused me to pause and look for the story. These two men, dressed in similar clothes, seem to be sharing a happy moment in their home. The camera man in the background looking back at us through the image captured by another camera-- I wonder what he's doing there -- and I wonder just what it is he is filming.

The image is dated February 1956. It was captured one year before the images of a same sex wedding that I found that took place in Philadelphia in 1957.  Probably not them. Right? Definitely not the young couple from the Netherlands.

As it turns out, the story of this photo was easy to track down. It turns out that this couple spent at least part of their lives right down the road from me in Andover Massachusetts.

A quick Google Image search turned up the original source of this (and many other) images of these two young men. Bob Young bought these photos and has taken the time to research the history behind them. He's indicated on his Flickr page that it was okay to reblog the photos as long as he's credited. I've decided to reblog his whole post. Bob has done such great work on chronicling this history of these forgotten lives.

Some today wish to deny the existence of same sex relationships. Others like to act as if same-sex relationships are a recent creation. History shows otherwise. These forgotten voices--these vintage loves--are important stories that have been hidden from history. As we tell and retell these stories, we bring back a rich but faded history of love, struggle, and liberation. These men lived in a time where there love was dangerous -- their very act of living was courageous and blazed a trail for all of us live in a today that offers significantly more freedom.

Here is what Young wrote about his images.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wait For Me Daddy: An Image of WW II

Wait For Me Daddy, Claude Dettloff, 1940
I've seen this photo on several different websites. It catches my eye each time I have come across it. The story comes through from the picture without words: a young family is saying goodbye as a father heads off to war.

With a little effort, it turns out the backstory of this image is fairly easy to come across.

The picture was taken on October 1, 1940 in Vancouver Canada by the American photographer Claude Dettloff.

The father, hand outstretched, was Jack Bernard. The woman with the swirling coat reaching toward the boy was Bernice Bernard. The young boy in the middle, five years old, was Warren "Whitey" Bernard.

The men were called up to serve in the Canadian army to fight in World War II.

To read more about the story behind this image click here for a brief history. For more personal accounts of Whitey, click here, here, here, or here. The family, sadly, did not remain intact after the war.

I've read reports that Dettloff was on hand to snap a picture of father and son reuniting at the end of the war. I cannot verify for sure that this is the image, but I'm fairly sure it is.

Jack and Warren Bernard
Warren "Whitey" Bernard
Interested in more vintage images? Follow my Tumblr for regular postings of the things I'm looking at (some vintage, some contemporary) as well as the blog postings hereherehereherehereherehere, and here.