A photographic history of men in love
cnn– When Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell came across an old photograph at an antique store in Dallas, Texas, they saw something of themselves reflected in the image.Taken around 1920, it showed two men in front of a house, posing in a loving embrace at a time when being gay was not only frowned upon but effectively illegal.”It represented us, so we bought the photo, took it home and had it on our desks for six or nine months,” Treadwell recalled in a phone interview from the couple’s home in New York City. “It was a random find, and we never thought we’d find another one.”Yet, in the two decades since, the pair discovered far more — in fact, by scouring auctions, junk stores and flea markets, they’ve amassed an archive of almost 3,000 images of men in love. Captured between the mid-19th century and just after World War II, and taken across five continents, the collection comprises portraits and candid shots of couples lying in bed, picnicking on grass and posing beside their cars. Nini and Treadwell may not know the circumstances in which the pictures were taken, but they believe the subjects’ body language and mutual gazes are, unmistakably, those of romantic lovers. Now, they have published more than 300 of the pictures in the book “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s-1950s.” Together, they offer intimate glimpses into romantic lives that would likely have remained hidden.”This book means, for the first time, that these people, these couples, get to speak for themselves,” Nini said. “They couldn’t do it when they were alive, but they can do it now, and I think that’s really powerful.” Given that many of the images come from a time when taking, developing or keeping such photos could pose a significant risk to one’s personal safety — or even freedom — the pictures also represent individual acts of bravery, he added.”These couples did something very risky because they really cared about each other. They memorialized their feelings with these photographs, and then had to hide them forever,” he said.