Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, July 21, 2023

A Hard Man is Good to Find! @ The Photographers' Gallery...

A little while ago Andrew, Kevin, Stuart & I went to the see the exhibition A Hard Man is Good to Find! at The Photographers' Gallery in London’s glitzy West End.  

It was fun. Modest in size but immodest in nature. There were some great candid photos - although obviously only showing the tamer ones here.  

Here’s the blurb… 

The exhibition features queer pictures of men in twentieth century London and charts the postwar development physique photography. 

Before the Sexual Offences Act 1967, marking the partial decriminalisation of gay sexual activity. any representation of male nudity which suggested homosexuality remained subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1857 (also 1959). This made making or distributing such images a criminal offence. It produced a clandestine visual culture regulated by laws which enforced homosexuality as invisible. In turn, it prompted a defiant gay press which fuelled gay liberation and the overt self-presentation of queer men.  

The exhibition identifies areas of London which were a focus for men seeking other men in order to photograph them, mapping a territory of risk and possibility. It explores how artists, photographers and publishers were securing images with queer sensibilities in radical ways. What emerges is an approach and aesthetic unique to London. The ideal of hard-bodied physical perfection - whether drawn from classical antiquity or Los Angeles studios - is exchanged for an under polished. somewhat domestic and slightly intimate. sensibility.  

The photographs are rare fragments from London’s queer visual history. Much of it has not survived due to forms of queer erasure - whether by queer people for reasons of self-preservation, by their heirs disassociating from evidence of queerness or through the misinterpretation of institutions. It is important to credit the work of the private collectors. library. university museum. and commercial gallery who kindly loaned them. Without their intervention. the record would be greatly diminished. Whilst this is an exhibition of queer pictures, it is important to note that not all the photographers or models can be claimed as queer subjects. It also acknowledges that language evolves and while queer is employed today for its inclusivity, the reclaiming of the derogatory term can sit uneasily for the generation subjected to it: the term homosexual can be similarly problematic for a younger generation. 

As a number of the works are historical documents, it has not been possible to identify all individuals represented in the exhibition. We welcome any amendments or additions. 

 Curated by Alistair O'Neill. Professor of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London) #HardMan

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