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Apr

Book review: The Invisibles

invisibles3It’s impossible not to be moved whilst flicking through new photographic tome, The Invisibles – which has been produced by the French artist and filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz. The book is a collection of images of individuals and couples – some known to be gay and others presumed to be so. Also featured are cross-dressers and the sexually ambiguous – all photographed between the years of 1900 and 1960.

The images serve as stark reminders that same-sex love and LGBT people have always been present in society – however discreetly they may have conducted themselves or kept their love hidden. The images also challenge the notion that LGBT people of earlier generations led lives enveloped in shame and torment. Most of the people pictured here display a joie de vivre and ease – both with one another and the camera.

invisibles1These photographs were first discovered by Lifshitz at flea markets and garage sales, where he found himself fascinated by the openly gay lifestyle portrayed in carefully assembled photo albums identical to those that any loving couple might create to document their lives together.
As Lifshitz states in the book’s introduction, following his early discovery of photo albums portraying an older mid-century lesbian couple, “What astonished me was that their middle-class appearance didn’t match the act: the act of producing an image of homosexual love at a time when discretion was the norm. Because 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.”
 
invisibles2Lifshitz restored voices and a public presence to these nameless couples in his acclaimed documentary, The Invisibles, for which he was awarded the French César Award for Best Documentary in 2013. This book – published by Rizzoli – ensures that images of just a few of the early 20th century's gay couples are not forever lost.

The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride by Sébastien Lifshitz is published on the 20 May 2014 priced £16.99.

Images: From the collection of Sébastien Lifshitz

Posted: 29 April 2014

 

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