Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William Gedney

Self Portrait / William Gedney / Duke University Libraries
"William Gedney, a photographer and teacher of photography at Pratt Institute and Cooper Union, died of AIDS yesterday at his home on Staten Island. He was 56 years old. Mr. Gedney, a teacher since 1969, was the recipient of Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships. An exhibition of his work, ''Eastern Kentucky and San Francisco,'' was staged in 1968 at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Gedney's pictures are in the collections of that museum and the George Eastman House in Rochester.

He is survived by his parents, William and Violet Gedney, of Bradenton, Fla., and a brother, Richard, of Westlake, Ohio." (New York Times Obituary, June 24, 1989)

So many lives have been silenced by AIDS. The numbers of people erased by a virus that can't be seen by our eyes is overwhelming. I don't think our society has come to realize the enormity of what has been torn away from our collective wealth. AIDS has killed at least 619,000 Americans and 25,000,000 people worldwide. (

Self Portrait / William Gedney / Duke University Library
I can't even begin to comprehend what a loss like that means. An entire generation of gay men removed from the planet. A generation of gay men left behind with no elders, no mentors, and no one to hold the memory of where we came from and where we hope to go. 

I might not be able to capture the enormity of what was lost. I can, however, introduce you to one life lost. The Duke University Libraries have carefully and thoughtfully made enormous amounts of their collections available to the public for research, wonder, and casual exploration. I previously discovered Hugh Mangum in their archives. Last night I discovered the photographer William Gedney

Gedney is mostly widely known for his images taken from his window on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn (also here & here),  as a Fulbright scholar in India (here, here, and here),  and his unbelievable stunning pictures of the Corbett Family.  

In the book What was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney, Sartor and Dyer write that the artist's photographs
are remarkable in their sympathetic and quietly sensual view of the world. Gedney's unobtrusive view reveals the beauty and mystery of individual lives. They illuminate the rare, lyrical vision of a photographer who, while living a reclusive personal life, recorded the lives of others with remarkable sensitivity and poignancy.

Gedney was on scene in New York City documenting the gay and lesbian liberation movement in the late 70s. Capturing a moment of freedom and hope sandwiched between the turbulent 60s and the impending deaths in the 80s and 90s from AIDS, Gedney recorded moments of lost innocence.

William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 25, 1978
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 24, 1979
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 28, 1981
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 24, 1977
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 24, 1977
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 24, 1977
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 1978
William Gedney / Duke University Library / June 24, 1979
As a photographer, Bill Gedney made profound connections with the people he photographed. Whether in Haight-Ashbury, eastern Kentucky or India, we can see he was fully engaged with his subjects, with their lives played out in and around cars, porches, bedrooms, backyards and on the street. The sensuality in his pictures reminds us of our sameness and, in fact, what is beautiful about our sameness. -- Thomas Roma
For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their Dog;Adam 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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