Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Swimming Photos

These two arrived whilst I was away. I have been trying very hard not to start actually collecting photos of men in vintage swimwear. The posts I put up here every so often tend to be using photos trawled from the Internet. But these two I actually own. I was taken with both of them on Ebay recently for almost exactly opposite reasons.

The man in his swimming costume on his own is a tintype. Tintypes are so easily damaged that, particularly larger ones are getting difficult to find in reasonable condition. But when they are in good nick, I just think the tone and subtlety of detail they can display is just beautiful. This one is only about 8cm x 6cm but it has a very lustrous quality - and the subject matter helps.

The other photo I'm completely in love with, despite the fact that actually much of it is out of focus. I love that it appears to be in a public swimming pool or perhaps Turkish Bath. The very fact that it is so out of focus just gives it real charm and speaks of the difficulty of photography in those days. Clearly the subject matter is great too but this photo more than a lot I've seen really shows how men's bodies are a different shape now. You could, I suppose with some game friends, a decent digital camera and photoshop produce a relatively convincing forgery of a Victorian male nude study or of a group like this, except that it would, I think be almost impossible to find people with body shapes that would match those of a hundred years ago. Size, proportion and muscular development all seem, to my eyes at least, to have changed a lot in the time between when this photo was taken and today.


PJ said...

In Jeremy Seabrook's terrific book of interviews: 'A Lasting Relationship: Homosexuals & Society'(1976) there's an interview with a rich elderly antique dealer who, by his own admission, spent most of his life cruising. He said that the improvement in the bodies of the working class following the introduction of the welfare state was dramatic!

Callum said...

Hi PJ,

It would be fascinating indeed to know what the antique dealer thought of as 'improvement'. I wonder if it would be possible to construct an argument that as the process continued, the Welfare State was also in some way responsible for the subsequent decline again... It's always fascinated me the way that human bodies appear to change over time.

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