‘Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love’ uncovers gay romances

The couple behind the photography book “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love” offered a glimpse into the project that uncovered queer romances on National Coming Out Day.

Authored and put together by Neal Treadwell and Hugh Nini, each photograph narrates a unique tale of love, secrecy, and survival across eras.

“Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love” portrays romantic love between men in hundreds of moving and tender vernacular photographs taken during the 100-year period between the 1850s and 1950s.

Gio Benitez, recently featured on The Advocate’s September/October cover, highlighted the project on “Good Morning America” and its pages of history inked in love and resilience.

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The mission spearheaded by Treadwell and Nini was ambitious yet profound — to unearth the oldest possible photographs of men in same-sex relationships worldwide. Their endeavor led to the discovery of a picture dating back to 1846, with the collection portraying moments spread across 70 to 175 years ago.

The visual narrative of astonishing sensitivity brings to light a previously-unpublished collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos made in the most varied of contexts, both private and public. Some are formal studio portraits, others were shot at the beach, in suburban settings, in the countryside, and at home. The range of individuals shown is extensive, covering nineteenth-century working-class men, fashionably dressed businessmen, university students, and soldiers and sailors of all ages, spanning the time between the Civil War and World War II, and into the 1950s.

Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love

The couple behind the photography book “Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love” offered a glimpse into the project that uncovered queer romances on National Coming Out Day. Photos: Instagram @lovingbynealandhugh and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Treadwell and Nini meticulously accumulated over 2,800 photographs of men in love over 20 years. The couple found them at flea markets, in shoe boxes, estate sales, family archives, old suitcases, and on online auctions. Their collection now includes photos from all over the world: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

One poignant narrative within this project was that of soldiers from Texas, John and Daryl, whose love story was delicately pieced together through various photographs.

Reflecting on the collection, Nini told “GMA,” “They were surprised to us. We couldn’t imagine that they had ever been taken, much less survived for so many decades and even centuries.”

David White and his husband, moved by the collection, contributed their love story to the book.”

White said, “This book and the photos contained within it are purely a gift.”

In a society inching toward broader acceptance, projects like this unveil hidden chapters of love and resilience and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the diverse narratives that shape the societal fabric.

Benitez said, especially on a day of such symbolic importance, the book reflects “stories that somehow survived decades in the shadows now front and center, shining a light on the LGBTQ+ community.”

This article originally appeared on Advocate.com, and is shared here as part of an LGBTQ+ community exchange between Q Voice News and Equal Media.

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Christopher Wiggins

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