Colorlines.com has an interesting piece on the work of Houston historian and playwright Trent Kelly, who is amassing a collection of rare vintage photographs of black male couples from the past 150 years in his online archive, Hidden in the Open: A Photographic Essay of Afro American Male Couples.
As both Kelly and writer Jorge Rivas admit, it’s impossible to know if all the men in Kelly’s 146-photos-and-counting collection are actually gay, But many of those depicted would read as “queer” to an LGBT viewer (feel free to deconstruct that in the comments) and a number of photos have telling inscriptions.
Think of Kelly’s work not as clinical anthropology but the blending of art and history to reclaim a hidden legacy.
On his Flickr page, Kelly writes:
Some of these images are sure to be gay and others may not. The end result is speculative at best for want in applying a label. Not every gesture articulated between men was an indication of male to male intimacies. Assuredly, what all photographs in this book have in common are signs of Afro American male affection and love that were recorded for posterity without fear and shame.
Kelly’s hope is that the images will break stereotypes and start conversations: “I want the world to see the photographs,” he told No More Down Low TV. “I want the black gay community to see the photographs and men in particular so they know they have a history to be proud of.”