The selection on display at MAH features 400 unique photographs of various dimensions – some never seen before – taken both professionally in studios and spontaneously in natural settings. Among them is an early twentieth-century photograph featuring two young men believed to be Bloomsbury poet Rupert Brooke and artist Duncan Grant (Virginia Woolf’s brother-in-law) lying together on the grass. Other pictures include one from circa 1880 showing two elegantly-dressed young men in suits holding hands, one sitting on the other’s lap; one from 1951 featuring two Black soldiers in uniforms sitting on a stool bench, one tenderly resting his chin on the other’s shoulder, and an undated picture showing two young men kissing passionately against the backdrop of expansive hilly fields. “They memorialised their feelings for one another in these photos at great risk,” Nini and Treadwell say. “All of them are examples of love, affection, attachment, and bravery. What we as collectors, personally, have come to understand from these photos is that couples like us have always existed.”
Additionally, the iconic Swiss photographer Walter Pfeiffer has intervened specifically for the display at MAH. Known since the 1970s for his homoerotic and often humorous portraits of amateur male models, the Zurich-based artist has selected several photographs from the Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell collection, which have been colour-modified and enlarged to adorn the museum’s walls. This site-specific intervention allows the display to bridge past and present, giving the otherwise historical collection a contemporary twist. Meanwhile, the equally iconic Swiss conceptual artist Urs Lüthi – credited as Lou Reed’s inspiration for the song ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ – will show two rare black and white videos. Projected simultaneously in the museum’s basement, the films were shot in Florence in 1974 using a split-screen technique. They feature images of milk pouring into an empty glass, Lüthi illuminating his face with a torch and the artist’ former partner, Elke Kilga, smoking quietly before pointing a gun at the viewer.
Image on top : Photo booth image , United States, undated, 27 x 32 mm, Courtesy of the Nini-Treadwell collection © Loving by 5 Continents Editions