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Germany and homoerotic photography in the 19th century

Homophobia was intense, but it didn’t stop photographer Wilhelm Von Gloeden’s artistic creation

In 19th century Germany, homophobia was intense, but it did not stop the artistic creation of photographer Wilhelm Von Gloeden (Völkshagen, September 16, 1856 – Taormina, February 16, 1931). He used classical, sanitized aesthetics to portray scenes with a strong homoerotic content – ​​a bait that led to exhibitions and that the media outlets of the time caught on, publishing photos with unimaginable content at the time.

Tuberculosis forced him to move to Italy, Sicily, where he became fascinated by young Italians. The photographer paid them to pose for such controversial photos, which soon made male modeling a natural activity in the small seaside town of Taormina. Money comes in, prejudice hides.

Around 1880, he quickly became famous for his shots of ephebes whose poses were heavily inspired by ancient art. He bet on photographs of naked boys in bucolic scenes inspired by Greek antiquity, becoming a pioneer in outdoor photography.

About 15 years later, he was already selling his photos on a large scale. But many of Gloeden’s models lost their lives during World War I. With this disastrous moment, there was a great social change and the photographer saw his educational ideal based on classical antiquity wither away. The demand for his work fell and he himself found himself shaken by his dead models.

Gloeden in self-portrait

Since the age of 14, Wilhelm has shared his life with Pancrazio Bucini, who inherited the works of this German who was a reference in artistic production before the First World War. It became known internationally at the end of the 19th century, but it was only at the beginning of the 1970s that it was rediscovered.

The number of models photographed by Von Gloeden is more than 7 thousand and more than 3 thousand photographs were his, most of which have not survived to this day. Most of the images were lost after World War I, when in 1936 Mussolini’s police destroyed more than 2,500 photographs on the grounds that they constituted pornography.

Source: Maxima

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