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Les Invisibles
June 17, 2014 3:24 AM   Subscribe

Les Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride is a collection of found photographs by film-maker Sébastien Lifshitz showing (mostly anonymous) gay couples together in the early years of the 20th century. 'He found most of his collection in the US and western Europe, but none in the UK: “Maybe the British think such photographs have no value, or are too private to sell.”'. In 2012, Lifshitz released Les Invisibles, a related documentary exploring the lives of 11 gay and lesbian individuals over the age of 70.

Sébastien Lifshitz on Les Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride: With each discovery I was stunned, for these images didn’t match the official history of homosexuality as it has been conveyed to us. As a teenager, when I dreamed of my adult life, if I stuck to the literature or the few films that existed on the subject, the future promised to be dark. To be gay or lesbian meant belonging to a genealogy of suffering, to have a dramatic, if not a tragic, destiny. Despite the many battles and certain victories that ensued, the homosexual remained a victim in the collective consciousness; a hidden man. Yet, these images, which I've found through the years, were telling another story -- one about a homosexuality without inhibitions, gentle and playful.

Sébastien Lifshitz on Les Invisibles: I wanted to look back over the past 60 years, talk to homosexuals born between the wars and ask them what life had been like for them. In parallel, another idea emerged. I didn’t want the film to focus uniquely on the past, quite the contrary. I also wanted to take a look at the lives of older homosexuals today, to film them in the present, to see what it’s like to love and to age for homosexuals over 70... The media has no interest in old people, and that goes double for old homos. The gay press focuses almost entirely on people in their thirties, as if after that, we all get sent to the junkyard. And yet, everyone ages. I find the invisibility of the elderly incredibly unhealthy, it only serves to heighten our fear of death and ageing. Ageing homosexuals themselves seem to accept this fate by withdrawing from their social lives. The word ‘invisible’ thus seems to me particularly accurate in describing these men and women who are absent from view.
posted by dng (8 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
The direct amazon link if you want a copy. This is something I didn't know I wanted - happiness and family photos, glimpses of domestic ordinary life and love in the past. Thank you dng!
posted by viggorlijah at 4:23 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Fantastic photos.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:05 AM on June 17


Those photos are beautiful.
posted by nev at 7:48 AM on June 17


Weren't there mostly just different societal standards viz a viz same sex adults demonstrating their affection for one other? Not that I wouldn't love to know that some of these were same sex relationships. See: Arab men holding hands in today's day and age.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 8:14 AM on June 17


.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:18 AM on June 17


Weren't there mostly just different societal standards viz a viz same sex adults demonstrating their affection for one other? Not that I wouldn't love to know that some of these were same sex relationships. See: Arab men holding hands in today's day and age.

Yes, and also different ideas of what it means to be hetero/homo, depending on the culture. Some of these folks may well have been gay, but it's nothing more than speculation on Lifshitz's part.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:28 AM on June 17


Weren't there mostly just different societal standards viz a viz same sex adults demonstrating their affection for one other? Not that I wouldn't love to know that some of these were same sex relationships.

posted by Captain Chesapeake at 4:14 PM on June 17


The Guardian article has an interview spread thinly across each page, and in that it says:

"Film-maker Sébastien Lifshitz, 45, has been scouring flea markets since he was 10. Twenty years ago, in the Vanves market, Paris, he came across a photo album of two old women. “I couldn’t figure out the relationship between them,” he says. “Were they sisters? Friends? Lovers?” He asked the seller if he had any more pictures of the pair, and he produced 10 more albums. Lifshitz bought the lot for ¤50. The shots spanned 30 years, and featured no children or men, just these two women, together. “I realised very quickly they were lovers,” Lifshitz says. “The way they held each other, the way they looked at each other.”

so he does acknowledge that it's impossible to know for sure the context of the pictures, but for some of them it's more than just a blind guess.

He also finds that interesting in itself, anyway:

The book includes shots whose subjects are clearly gay, some who might have been gay and others who were playing. “It’s interesting to see homosexuality in everyone’s lives in some way,” he says. “It wasn’t an absolute taboo.”
posted by dng at 8:29 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Thanks, dng.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:44 AM on June 17


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