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Men in Rows: Vintage Photos Before Social Distancing

Men in Rows: Vintage Photos Before Social Distancing

When men line up for a photo, their proximity violates ordinary personal space. What are the rules? What’s allowed as men organise and pose for the camera? 

The norms are set by culture, context and era. As these photos reveal, there’s a wide range. Presumably all humans have an innate concept of personal space but the space between men can have a particular charge.

What does it mean when distance is violated or if "too much" affection is expressed? Peril lies in the (mis)interpretation: either being thought to be queer (an offense to many straight men) or inadvertently exposing one’s nature (historically a danger to gay men). 

Interpretation is of course, the realm of the viewer. With the concept of social distancing, today we see these men in rows through a new lens. Posing so closely is suddenly inconceivable when the space between us can be a matter of life or death. 

The only thing we know for sure is they were as much a product of their time as we are of ours.

Men in Rows: Athletes, Military, Friends, Swimsuits, and Queer.


From Beach Adonis magazine, January 1967.

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