I may be naive and a hopeless romantic, but I firmly believe that love conquers all. In their photo book Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s, Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell prove me right. They have collected a series of photos of male couples from back in the day when it was still illegal to engage in same-sex relationships. They prove that love is stronger than the law, and in case you stopped believing in love, these could make you change your mind.
The collection took years of searching and thousands of kilometers of travel. It all started in 2000 with a single photo from circa 1920. “We came across an old photo that we thought was one of a kind,” the authors write on the book’s website. “The subjects in this vintage photo were two young men, embracing and gazing at one another – clearly in love. We looked at that photo, and it seemed to look back at us.” The photo made them wonder who the men in it were, who took their photo, and how risky it must have been to take a photo like that in the 1920s.
But around a year later, they came across another image that drew their attention. “It was a miniature portrait of two soldiers from the 1940s, approximately the size of a man’s thumbnail,” the authors write. “They were posed cheek to cheek, and their photo was in a small art deco glass frame with “Yours Always” etched into the glass. This is when Hugh and Neal’s twenty-year journey began. They’d never planned it, but it looks as if they’d been destined for it.
The duo has traveled across Europe, Canada, and the US over the past 20 years. During this time, they have visited flea markets and antique shops and combed through boxes and piles of old photos. They’ve also visited online auctions searching for old photos of men in love. And with time, their collection has grown to more than 2,700 images.
Sometimes it’s clear that the photos show a couple. But other times, it’s not that easy to say at first whether the men are in love or just friends. When in doubt, Hugh and Neal use a method that I think never fails – they look into their eyes. “There is an unmistakable look that two people have when they are in love. You can’t manufacture it. And if you’re feeling it, you can’t hide it,” they write. And I couldn’t agree more.
“Our collection reveals to the world, and even to us, for the first time and voluminously, that feelings of love, attachment, or longing, between two people are the same – regardless of the gender makeup of the couple,” the authors write. And what’s more, the photos also document one hundred years of photography, which is also extremely valuable. You can see the changes in photographic techniques, but also how society and fashion change over time. And what I believe is the most important, you can see that love is love on all continents and in all ages.
You can check out a few more photos below. Make sure to visit Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell’s Instagram page and the website dedicated to the book, where you can see more images and get more information.
[via Bored Panda]