Wednesday, June 11, 2008

George Platt Lynes (1907-1955)

As part of the series of Journal entries about contemporary alternative gay male art versus traditional gay male art I explore the history and relationship of photography in general to gay male photography in particular.

What more can I say about this greatest of 20th century fashion photographers that hasn't already been said. We know he destroyed most of his own studio negatives and prints because he feared censorship during a time when photography of male nudes was considered pornographic and illegal (Well, John, photographs of naked men are still considered to be pornographic!). His elegant, beautifully lighted and technically perfect work - including fashion photographs, portraits of famous persons who were often in his personal circle of friends and male nudes - are considered to be some of the best 20th century photographs by contemporary critics. George Platt Lynes himself considered the male nudes to be his best photographs. Lynes work from Vogue set the style in fashion photography to this day. His publicity photographs for Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine of The New York City Ballet dancers are some of the strongest of the genre. Indeed this vast body of artwork influences the direction of figurative photography into the Twenty-first Century.

At the same time, Lynes’ bodies are leaner than a contemporary gay representation of the male form. A comparison of the image above to “Duo VII” (1992) by Herb Ritts, shows how much the gay male eye has changed over time. However, both Lynes and Ritts fit into my first category, artists whose primary concern is the traditional representation of the ideal male body.

* "George Platt Lynes Poster (1945)," The Kinsey Institute: for Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. © 1996-2008, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Inc. Viewed 8:22 EDT., June 11, 2008.


Woody, Jack, George Platt Lynes: Photographs 1931-1955. Pasadena, Calif.: Twelve-Trees Press, 1981.

"George Platt Lynes & 20th Century Figurative Photography," Exhibition at Gendell Gallery ( Viewed 8:30 A.M. EDT. , Monday, June 9, 2008.

Gonzales-Day, Ken, “George Platt Lynes,” glbtq, an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer culture, Last modified July 27, 2005. Viewed 8:15 A.M. EDT. , Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

“George Platt Lynes,” Queer Arts Resource, Viewed 8:08 A.M. EDT. , Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

“George Platt Lynes,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Last modified 3:10 GMT, September 24, 2007. Viewed 7:55 A.M. EDT. , Tuesday, June 10, 2008.

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