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Developing Muscles: Early Photography of the Male Nude

25jul11:00 am12:15 pmDeveloping Muscles: Early Photography of the Male Nude11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Event Details

  • Gay Desert Guide's Fun & Games Dept. and present Developing Muscles: Early Photography of the Male Nude
  • Join us for a history of homoerotic photography from Pictorial gods and the ‘Sicily set’ of late 19th C, to the 1950s peak of Physique!
  • Can't make the live event? Buy a ticket for the recording and watch the event in your own time! Details in FAQs below.
  • Many gay and bisexual artists of the past 150 years have transformed their homoerotic fantasies into photographic realities. From the dubious aristocratic enclaves of Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931) and Guglielmo Plüschow (1852-1930) in Sicily of the 1890s to the 1910s, where ‘Uranian’ ideologies mythologized the beauty of youth, to Bob Mizer’s (1922-1992) brawny mainstream muscle worshipping magazines of the mid 20th century, we will explore some of the key names who have shaped the genre. Some took a more high-brow approach such as the Pictorialist, Fred Holland Day (1864-1933). A Boston philanthropist, he had a penchant for working-class men who he would take to the woods and reimagine as St. Sebastian or Orpheus, the god who had the power to charm all living things. He pictured his work hanging proudly in galleries and museums of the world as a great homage to beauty. Whilst the tone is elevated, the subject matter is the nonetheless the same as the homoerotic images made and sold in early pornographic channels.
  • Others such as George Platt Lynes (1907-1955), believed his homoerotic imagery also to be his masterwork, but nevertheless kept it under wraps during his lifetime for fear of prosecution. Like many of his era, his sexuality was not necessarily a secret, but even sending such work in the mail to the Kinsey Institute for future safe-keeping could have resulted in arrest, let alone display and publication at the time. These early pioneers would go on to inspire later heavyweights of the genre like Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Robert Mapplethorpe, creating a canon of queer photographers who have explored, defined, and refined the gay gaze over several decades.
  • Speaker Bios
  • Zorian Clayton is an Assistant Curator of Prints at the Victoria & Albert Museum, specializing in 19th and 20th century posters and paper ephemera. He has been the co-chair of the Museum’s LGBTQ+ Working Group for the past eight years and has curated numerous special events and research projects on queer artists in the V&A collections.
  • Since 2016, he has worked jointly as a programmer at the British Film Institute for the BFI Flare Festival, the largest LGBTIQ+ film festival in Europe. He is also a board member of Trans Creative, a Manchester-based arts company formed in 2017 to improve transgender narratives and visibility in theatre, film, and the visual arts. Over lockdown he co-curated ‘Found in Translation’, a trans masculine and non-binary virtual art exhibition.
  • Whilst together at the V&A, Zorian developed and co-curated a number of research projects and events, including: Queer & Now (2015), Out for Revolution! (2017) and Subverting Censorship (2018). See for further details.


(Sunday) 11:00 am - 12:15 pm


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