At a museum in Geneva, Hugh Nini and his husband Neal Treadwell posed in front of their collection of photographs of men in love.
Including one taken around 1900 in which two men hold a sign reading “Not married but willing to be”.
“Our mind reels at what might have been going through their heads at the time,” said Nini, who with Treadwell has collected photographs of men in love for more than two decades.
In 2020, the U.S. couple published “Loving”, a volume with hundreds of snapshots and portraits of displays of love between men taken between the 1850s and 1950s. The identity of the vast majority of the men, some of whom can be seen embracing, kissing or resting in bed, remains unknown.
A portion of their collection is being put on display for the first time starting Thursday at Geneva’s Musee Rath, which hosts the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire’s temporary exhibitions.
Nini and Treadwell first unearthed the photographs at flea markets and family archives, and later online and at auctions.
“I think that they wanted to have something to remember themselves by,” Treadwell said of the subjects photographed, which include many men in the military.
“A lot of the photographs were pristine, so you know that they’ve been hidden somewhere, tucked in a book or in a drawer.”
The photographs, which were taken when male partnerships were often illegal, come from countries including the United States and Germany. Aside from those taken in photo booths, the individuals who took the photographs are unknown.
“What we’ve discovered through this collection is that just like today, these men, these couples had friends, allies and family who supported them,” Nini said.