Haunting Photos Of Gays Cuddling A Century Ago

the invisibles hugSometimes it can be hard to imagine the queers who came before us. Did they even exist? What were their lives like? Were they hot?

Fortunately, French film auteur Sébastien Lifshitz has combed through vintage photos at garage sales and flea markets and eBay for more than 20 years, amassing a collection of old queer life. We have no idea who the people in his pictures are, but we have at least a little glimpse into a world that was, somehow, preserved.

Now he’s releasing a book called The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride, gathering together all of the images he’s found.

41 couplesSome are super-gay, clearly depicting a same-sex couple. Others are a little more vague, showing an element of queerness like a lady in a top hat. And some just seem to toy with gender around the edges.

Gazing through these photos introduces a new mystery: who took them, and why did such potentially risky images survive after leaving the photographer’s hands?

You might know Lifshitz from some of his other work, particularly if you are fancy and French. He’s the director of Wild Side, a semi-narrative film about hookers, and well as the documentary Bambi.

And he’s also made a documentary based on his book. In The Invisibles, elderly French gays reminisce about life before queer liberation, how they pioneered their own way of life, and what it was like to be rejected by society on a scale that we can only imagine today.

H/t: Huffington Post

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  • fagburn


  • David Gervais

    If you simplify the sentence to its core elements, the structure is easier to see.
    After ‘but’, ‘we have a glimpse (S/V/O) that (subordinating conjunction) was preserved.(IO)

  • michael mellor

    Men were united back then. They were not formally divided into gay and straight. Men touched each other more than they do today but not necessarily for sexual intercourse reasons.

  • Maude

    I’m told, one day a year, Halloween…. a ‘queer’ could dress in drag and actually walk the streets of New York City, but ‘she’ had to be
    home by midnight. No joke.

    Tempting to ask about glass slipper and pumpkins and such, but I don’t want to ridicule.

    In the seventies, things had loosened up some, and I can remember parties given by friends who were on the edge of NY ‘show business’
    and all the chorus boys who would attend. Lots of sex with each more attractive than the other…..some would get dressed in drag after they arrived.

    Some of the best weekends of my life.

  • toberlin

    Just know him from “Wilde Side”.Nice articel…

  • Tonez

    Why is this “haunting”?

  • Maude

    There are many photos of the notorious Cole Porter and his entourage who was kicked out of France, FRANCE FOR GAWDS SAKE! in the twenties.
    His parties were/are legendary, and the photos were carefree but still somewhat guarded.

    Noel Coward led a similar lifestyle, but a bit less ostentatious.

    Read their bios, you won’t be disappointed.

  • Rusty

    The first time I went in drag I was fourteen and I did it for my boyfriend and I often wondered if we’d look like the couple here when we got older. LOL it didn’t happen.

  • Throbert McGee

    Sounds like a cool book, but I think the gold standard for “books about how guys used to hold hands and dance together in old photographs” is John Ibson’s Picturing Men. Ibson is openly gay, but he interprets the vintage photos conservatively and assumes that most of the male pairs in the pictures were straight (except in rare cases of personal photos that were acquired from estate sales of elderly men who had come out as gay before they died).

  • jonathanyoungii

    What was that video? That 2 minute clip fascinated me…

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