HISTORICAL PRESSINGS

 
 

George Platt Lynes II

 
In the slightly later nude photographs by George Platt Lynes the latent homoeroticism evident in his earlier work becomes more apparent.

George Platt Lynes "Untitled" c.1942
 

 George Platt Lynes.
"Untitled."
c.1942

 

According to David Leddick
the models are Charles 'Tex'
Smutney, Charles 'Buddy'
Stanley, and Bradbury Ball.
The image comes from a series
of 30 photographs of these three
boys undressing and lying
on a bed together.

(See the Thesis notes on other
images from this series in the
Collection at The Kinsey Institute
).

 

 

In the above image from c. 1942 we see three young men in bare surroundings, likely to be Platt Lynes studio. The faces of the three men are not visible at all, evoking a sexual anonymity. On a chair sits a pile of discarded clothes and in the background a man is removing the clothing of another man. The bulge of the man's penis is quite visible through the material of the underpants. On the bed lies another man, face down, passive, unresisting, head turned away from us, the curve of his arse signalling a site of erotic activity for a gay man. Our gaze is directed to the arse of the man lying on the bed as a site of sexual desire and although nothing is actually happening in the photograph, there is a sexual 'frisson' in its composition.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see photograph below for example) were possibly influenced by a number of things - his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I believe, a certain sadness but much inner strength in his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

 

 

George Platt Lynes "Untitled" nd

 

George Platt Lynes.
"Untitled."
(Frontal Male Nude)
n.d.

 

(See the Thesis notes on this
photograph in The Collection
at The Kinsey Institute
)

 

The monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off. Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The above photograph is very 'in your face' for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals). This photograph is quite restrained compared to one of the most striking series of GPL's photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area. A photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled 'George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute'. This image is far less explicit than other images of the same model from the same series that I saw during my research into GPL's photographs at The Kinsey Institute, in particular one which depicts the model with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart. After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine'Der Kries' under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf, and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious.

Personally I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.