LGBT

Vintage Photographs Provide A Glimpse Into The Lives Of LGBT Couples

Sébastien Lifshitz’s latest photography book is a collection that is both heartbreaking and inspiring – bringing to light the individuals that lived in a world of secrecy.

1. French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz has collected stunning archival photographs of gay, lesbian, and sexually ambiguous couples from the 1900s up to 1960 for his latest book: The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride.

THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE

2. An avid photography collector, Lifshitz began to discover the photographs purely as a hobby from various flea markets and garage sales.

THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE / Via Rizzoli Publishing

3. “With each discovery I was stunned,” Lifshitz remarked. The filmmaker soon found himself obsessed with the the anonymous faces looking back at him through the photographs.

THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE

4. He also found himself inspired by the bravery of these couples, to document their unique relationships at a time when these lifestyles were anything but public.

THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE / Via Rizzoli Publishers

5. In the book’s introduction, following an early discovery of photos portraying an older mid-century lesbian couple, Lifshitz notes:


… to obtain these images, they had to have gone to a small neighborhood photo lab to develop the film and then go back to pick up the prints. They, therefore, had to run the risk of exposing themselves socially. The need to keep a memory of their love was certainly stronger than the disapproval of some business or any concerns about what others might say.”

6. In an interview, Lifshitz pointed out that there is no way of knowing for certain the orientations of the individuals photographed beyond speculation.

Rizzoli Publishing/ Via THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE

7. To Lifshitz, there are three ways to “read” the photographs:


The first one is the pictures of obviously gay single people or couples, the second is the pictures of people which can be seen as ‘undefined’ (we’re not sure) and the third level is the ones that are obviously not gay but playing with a gay attitude (cross-dresser, some ‘garçonnes,’ etc.)

8. “I love the ambiguity and diversity of these pictures. These photographs ask questions.”

Rizzoli Publishing / Via THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE

9. The book was published as a companion work to Lifshitz’s 2012 film, Les Invisibles.

10. Buy a copy of the book here.

amazon.com / Via THE INVISIBLES: VINTAGE PORTRAITS OF LOVE AND PRIDE

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Sarah Karlan is the associate LGBT editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact this reporter at sarah.karlan@buzzfeed.com
          
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