Saturday, January 23, 2010


I have always been fascinated with imagery, ever since I was a boy. The composition of a picture, the age of one, has always encouraged my critical eye. This picture, a Daguerreotype from about 1845, shows two attractive young men in the prime of their lives. Aren't they handsome? I think quite handsome. Even their facial hair would fit right in these days. I see the very same whiskers on men in the Toronto subway.

Considering the hardships of life at that time, they look self-assured. These young gentlemen are at the top of their arc. This is partly due, I am sure, to the self-possession of youth but also to the long exposure times required in the Daguerreotype process. I think though, that their bearing, the slant of their heads, their clothes and casual attitude bespeak privilege. These men obviously came from well-to-do families. Dress being perpetually formal at that time in history, it is hard to say why I think so, but there are small clues. Their stylish fobs and the round stone on the hand are two details. It is not so much that they have them, but the way they wear them.

The homo-erotic camaraderie of the two of them is also fascinating. The crossed legs and the casual hand on the shoulder make one want to believe they are lovers. It is almost a completely false conception. Affection was expressed differently and there wasn't even a medical term for homosexuality in the west at that time. It was simply not discussed. Sexuality was not studied as it is today. Nevertheless, these two handsome fellows shared secrets, they were close friends, as is obvious.

The image was taken from a book called Dear Friends, American Photographs of Men Together 1840-1918. It's a fun book.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me this photo was for private use for them back then. I do not think they would have hung this in the living room for all to see. They must have lived in the closet as many still do today, for fear. Back then even worse. Great photo.

Starched Collar said...

Yes, too bad. But even today we are hanged, murdered and ostracized the world over.