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An Amateur Photographer's Collection of Polaroid Men

An Amateur Photographer's Collection of Polaroid Men

He was a psychologist who worked for the city of Los Angeles with incarcerated patients. An orchid enthusiast who converted the pool house of his Beverly Hills home (formerly owned by Jim Nabors!) to a greenhouse where he’d create hybrids.

And at night, Dr. Hull was an avid amateur photographer, or should we say, pornographer.

His Polaroids from the 1960s document in personal, one-of-a-kind images, dozens of men posing at his home. Were they friends? Sex partners? Were they paid? Did they come for a few beers and, you know, things happen?

In varying states of undress, they’re all about the same age, trim and fit. They smoke. They drink. They strip. They flip through magazines: Follies and Muscleboy

There are plenty of dicks and more than a few erections but there’s no sex. When a guy lies on the bed, the sheets may be rumpled but he’s alone.

Compared to what we commonly see today it’s all pretty darn chaste. Beyond any prurient interest, these photos serve as a diary of one man’s private encounters and offer a peek into a shared gay past. These guys aren’t living in fear or isolation even though the outside world could be a dangerous place. 

Sodomy was a felony in every state until 1962, punished by a lengthy term of imprisonment and/or hard labor. Mailing images with frontal nudity was illegal until 1967-68. People who were outed routinely lost their jobs and families. Photographers were harassed and arrested.

Pictures like these could get a guy into a lot of trouble. They remained hidden for 60 years, coming to light only after Dr. Hull’s death. The fact they’ve survived is a minor miracle.

The fact they exist is a miracle of technology. Polaroids were the hot new thing in the 1960s. For the first time since the creation of photography you didn’t need to develop negatives or risk sending them out to a lab. 

No need to wait more than a few minutes as the photo gradually, magically appeared. The immediacy was fun and exciting, creating an instant bond and an enduring memorial. Something entirely new was created when gays got their hands on a Polaroid camera. Stonewall and Gay Liberation were just around the corner.

See the Polaroid Collection.

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Back to 1966

I happened to come across this "Obscenity and Nudity" article in Tiger Magazine No. 3 from 1966. Yes, some people DO read the articles! 

It points to the Puritanical attitude of "militant civic, religious, and fraternal organizations" towards nudity in the U.S. compared with acceptance in other ("backward"!) countries like Spain. With nudes banned from ecommerce sites, Instagram etc. we seem to be moving backwards in time (even while porn is ubiquitous). 

text from Tiger article about censorship by the USPS

Here's the banned painting in question.

the nude maja by Goya 

Here's a photo I just posted to Instagram.

male nude in car

Within a couple minutes it was deleted with the following message:

Our guidelines on nudity
We don't allow people to share nudity.
We define nudity as things like:
 Showing buttocks or the anus
 Showing someone's genitals
 Showing female nipples, except to talk about breast feeding, the moments after giving birth, health or an act of protest

So nearly 60 years after the Tiger article, even Goya's painting of the Naked Maja would be banned by Instagram. Please note that showing your dick or ass is apparently not an act of protest. Fucking pathetic.

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About Copy Prints

About Copy Prints

You may have noticed a number of the photos listed on Homobilia have the term "copy print" in the description. Copy prints are simply prints made from other photos, rather than from negatives.

The main reason they're common for subject matter like male nudes is peoples' fear of sending them through the USPS. Up until the late 1960s the consequences of mailing nude photos could be very severe if you were caught.

Sometimes it's easy to tell a copy print. You might notice the edges of the original photo don't align with the edges of the copy. Or maybe you’ll see things like photo corners (above) or a bit of a table top. The clarity and focus are not as sharp as the original (below) and there are often miscellaneous artifacts, spots, etc. on the copy print.

blurry copy print of a standing male nude 

Another sign of a copy print is the paper wasn't manufactured when the photo was taken. You’ll even find eBay sellers making copy prints on their inkjet printers, and the unscrupulous ones try to pass them off as “vintage.”

But sometimes it's not so easy to identify a copy print and it comes down to a feeling that it "looks like a copy print." So when I have my suspicions I mention it in the listing description to be transparent. 

Does it really matter? Certainly you should expect to pay less for a copy print than an original photo. But if you truly love a photo it may not make much difference if it's a vintage copy print. In a way it adds a layer of meaning.

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The New Homobilia

The New Homobilia

Announcing a giant step backwards to a world before credit cards. To the 1950s and 60s when guys who originally collected physique photos sent the photographer a check in the mail. 

Regrettably, this means losing the ease and convenience of using your Visa or MasterCard to make a purchase. PayPal and Venmo still work– for now. 

Why such a drastic step? Because it’s the only way to show our photos, books and magazines without censoring them. We’ve tried over the past year to find alternatives, but the world of Adult Payment Gateways is apparently not for sissies after all. 

We want your visit to Homobilia to be a positive experience. This includes showing unaltered images, whether or not there happens to be a dick in them. We can no longer observe the absurd and homophobic "terms and conditions" which force us to self-censor.

One thing hasn’t changed: our no-risk policy. We understand that buying photos online is different from seeing them in person. So if for any reason you’re not happy with your purchase, just let us know. When you return the item you’ll get a full refund.

We welcome your comments and feedback.

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Censorship and Sensibility: Part Two

Censorship and Sensibility: Part Two

On Thursday January 26, 2023, Shopify and its "banking partners" removed the restrictions on Homobilia. We can once again use their payment gateway to accept credit cards. Do I hear a feeble "woo-who?"

I feel like a collaborator. Guess I am. But after three months of declining sales it was either accept their absurd conditions or shut down the site. The latter course seems like "cutting off your nose to spite your face" and while I have been know to do that, I've learned it's not a smart response.

So after 22 emails (no phone calls-- Shopify won't allow their "Trust and Safety" staff to [double]speak with customers); after finding one person there who seemed to actually care; after deleting not just all photos that show even a hint of male genitals but drawings by Tom of Finland and an 1894 academic collotype, we are now in compliance.

As an aside, a few thoughts about Shopify's Orwellian language. "Trust and Safety?" The "Dicks and Nips Dept" would be more accurate. Are we supposed to trust them? And who exactly are they keeping safe? Who is being harmed by an image of a naked human being? Fifty percent of the population have only to look in a mirror or glance down to see a penis (can I say the word "penis" or am I violating more terms and conditions?).

And about nipples: Why is it acceptable to view male nipples but female nipples are verboten? Why can you show breasts in the most blatant sexual manner as long as you don't reveal nipples? Who makes up these fucking idiotic rules, the "banking partners" or Lauren Boobert?

More to the point, why, you might ask, don't you simply use another platform to host Homobilia? There are, after all, options like eBay, Etsy, or god-forbid, Go Daddy. 

We've been selling Homobilia on eBay for years. Their policy would leave Einstein befuddled. The best I can tell, no one understands it, no one can explain it, and it's applied in a totally random fashion.
One Homobilia customer who also sells on eBay recently told me his all-too-familiar story.

"I bought several gay pulp novels on eBay and decided to resell them. eBay deleted my listings because they violated their policy. I called and asked the representative (who could barely speak English) how was it acceptable to buy the books but not sell them? Short answer: they didn't know." That pretty much sums up eBay.

eBay policy:  
We want to make adult items available to those who wish to purchase them and can do so legally, while preventing those who do not wish to view or purchase these items from easily accessing them. 
Why would you need to prevent them from seeing items they didn't wish to see? Isn't that the function of site search?
It's as if an innocent victim searching for "blow dryers" is going to be forced to look at a vintage Tom of Finland Kake magazine. If that sort of thing actually happens, eBay engineers have bigger problems than genitalia.
Here's a simpler policy:
If you do not wish to view an item which contains male nudity do not use the following Search terms on eBay: male nude, naked men, beefcake boys, men with big dicks, men with big cocks, big men with big cocks, trucker's load, etc. Because if you do, eBay will prevent you from seeing it. They will accomplish this by preventing everyone from seeing it.
See? Much simpler.
On Etsy, the story is similar. They can and will remove your store if they choose to. No warning or notice. 
And then there's Go Daddy. The guys who gave us the artistic, sophisticated and not-in-the-least sexualized Go Daddy Girl. 
I couldn't find Seller Terms on their website so I called and spoke with Jeff in Texas. I explained that I wanted to read their Terms so I'd know what was allowed. When he asked me what I sold, I replied "photographs." "Well... are they weird?" he asked. I later came across this:
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time and without notice if we, at our sole discretion, consider any content to be objectionable. 
That's a good one: Go Daddy deciding what's objectionable!

It's all so incredibly stupid and frustrating to those of us who display, buy or sell nudes online. But we'll figure out a way. We always do.

Have a story of your own to share? Get in touch.

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Censorship and Sensibility

Censorship and Sensibility

After more than 10 years operating our website on the Shopify platform we were shocked and disappointed to be given the option of either deleting the site's male nudes or covering-up their genitals.
Shopify implicates their "banking partners" but it is, regardless, censorship. This is especially ironic given our mission to increase visibility of and for the queer community. We see gay people, and sometimes they're naked.
Practically since the invention of photography in the 19th Century, male nude photos have been exchanged and collected by men all over the world. In the 1950s and 60s, physique magazines made these images (often with posing straps) widely accessible. They played an important role in fostering a sense of community, conveying the vital message that "there are others like me."
Many photographers have been victims of police raids and intimidation, their photos destroyed, equipment and mailing lists seized, livelihoods destroyed. (Mel Roberts is just one example). All because of the absurd Puritanical notion that the male body is by definition obscene.
Censorship today is subtler but more insidious. Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and now Shopify ban "genitalia." To be fair, Shopify also bans female nipples. It is probably only a matter of time until we're required to add pasties to male nipples.
It is absurd, offensive, and without any reasonable justification. That said, we are powerless in this situation, forced to collaborate if we want to stay in business. The First Amendment protects against censorship imposed by law, but according to Wikipedia, "does not protect against corporate censorship... including loss of access to a marketplace."
We welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions. Please contact us if you'd like to see uncensored scans which we'll happily send via email (until they start censoring email too). 

Go to Part 2 >>>

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4th Annual LGBTQ+ Auction at Swann

4th Annual LGBTQ+ Auction at Swann

It's massive! Over 400 lots in Swann Auction Galleries' upcoming LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History Auction (August 18, 2022).

The sale features original artwork by Tom of Finland including the stunning Portrait of Eric, and works by artists associated with or influenced by Tom (Sadao Hasegawa, George Quaintance, Jim French, and Rex and Etienne).

Photography collectors will find images by Peter Hujar, George Platt Lynes, Robert Mapplethorpe, Duane Michals, Vincent Cianni, Tom Bianchi and Bruce of LA.

There's also historical material from the early years of the gay liberation movement, AIDS era posters and works by Oscar Wilde, Hugh Steers, Paul Cadmus, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Andrew Lamar Hopkins, Avel de Knight and many others.

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Photo of the Month: July 2022

Photo of the Month: July 2022

Summer on the Cote d’Azur. Could be July 1946. That’s when French engineer Louis Reard introduced the bikini. Reard named his design for the Bikini Atoll, where the first post-war tests of the atomic bomb were taking place.

Wearing a bikini and lounging on a chaise is the nubile “Queen of the Cote d’Azur,” Mme. Viseuse. Her top– a pair of rigid cones. We see her face in profile as she turns to look up at two bodybuilders standing beside her.

Battendier, barely contained in his swimsuit, literally and figuratively looks down at her. If he’s getting hard it’s not because of the lovely Mme. Viseuse. If he’s not hard, well, I shudder to think.

The other muscle god, Marcel Rouet, was twice awarded le Plus Bel Athlète de France (1936 and 1943). According to Wikipedia, he wrote "seven works on sexuality, in particular by approaching this theme through the mind." Ogling his body, it's not the angle I'm considering.

Rouet gazes upon Mme. Viseuse with a bemused expression, or maybe he’s incredulous. Obviously a posed image, it captures a candid moment like a good snapshot.

Written on verso: Mme. Viseuse, Reine de la Côte d'Azur en companie de Battendier, Apollon de la Côte d'Azur et Marcel Rouet, le  Plus Bel Athlète de France.

Stamped "Photo Serge," gloss paper, 9 1/2" x 11 3/4," undated.

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Pride and Pirates: Aargh!

Pride and Pirates: Aargh!

Photo of the Month: June 2022

A shaft of light? A tractor beam? Probably doesn’t matter to this young guy who surrenders with one hand and smokes with the other.

His back is against the brick wall. His shirt is AWOL. But his expression is coy, almost come-hither. All we know for sure is the date of the photo: June 1936. 

Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition

Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean

A must-read for anyone interested in academic gay history and/or pirates.

The classic depiction of pirates: sword (or bottle of rum) in one hand, the other fondling a buxom wench, is a hetero-normative fantasy. So argues historian B.R. Burg’s scholarly examination of homosexuality on the high seas.  

Burg’s careful research proves that the “Golden Age of Piracy” (1650 to 1730) was an oasis of male to male sex and loving relationships. Most pirate officers had their “lads,” and the working crew had each other. In fact, it was pirate society that instituted “matelotage” where same sex partners would contract their assets to each other - a 17th century equivalent of gay marriage. 

Sidenote: Two Arrghs and a bag of doubloons to the creators of the hit HBO series “Our Flag Means Death” for not just reading this book, but having the balls to incorporate Burg’s research into the show.

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Photo of the Month and Other News

Photo of the Month and Other News

Peter and I

Handsome, fully clothed Mr. Black Hat (is it Peter or I?) drapes an arm around his underwear-clad mate. Mr. Silly Hat nestles against his chest, rests a forearm on his leg, and grabs hold of two fingers. More than friendship, their intimate pose suggests union:  possession. They belong to each other.

Handwritten on verso: "Peter u. Ich 1957."

Stamped: Drogerie Eduard Schultz, Langendreer Denkmal. (The Headless War Memorial in Langendreer is an interesting story in itself).

4” x 3” gloss print on Agfa Brovira paper, Germany, dated 1957.

Maitland’s Vintage Gay Books Newsletter

Her prose outshines that of the gay pulp novels she reviews. But with style, a touch of cynicism, and a sly sense of humor, Maitland McDonagh reveals a surprising amount of depth in books generally prized only for their covers. 

Take this example from her post on Vampire’s Kiss.

vampire's kiss vintage gay pulp novel 

If only Damon could silence the mean-spirited subconscious that keeps telling him he hates absolutely everything about the life he was barely living before he hopped into bed with a member of the queer undead.

Think of her blog posts as the Cliff Notes of gay pulps. Yes, she actually reads them so you don’t have to! But her reviews are not to be missed. 

The Pine Walk Collection

Recently found in a house on Pine Walk, there are over 200 cassette tapes of DJ sets from Fire Island Pines and New York City (1979-1999). Digitized, remastered and offered to stream for free on Mixcloud with permission from all of the living DJs they were able to contact. 

The New York Times notes: “More than a catalog, the tapes are the soundtrack to a critical juncture in gay history as the AIDS crisis emerged and a new generation of activists fought for their rights and survival.”

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