A Hard Man is Good to Find!

The Photographers' Gallery, London
3 March - 11 June 2023

Explore 60 years of queer photography of the male physique.

While the 1955 Wolfenden Report and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act marked the partial decriminalisation of gay sexual activity, prompting gay liberation and the fight for social equality; any depiction of male nudity which suggested homosexuality remained subject to the 1857 Obscene Publications Act, which made making or distributing such images a criminal offence.

A clandestine visual culture emerged, regulated by laws which enforced homosexuality as invisible. In turn, it directly fed the defiant, overt visuality of gay men’s bodies that emerged in the post-war period.

Taking a novel approach, the exhibition highlights key areas of London which were a focus for men seeking out men to photograph. It maps out a territory of risk and possibility across Highgate, between Chelsea and Wellington Barracks, in Soho, Brixton, Portobello and Euston. Catalogues, print ordering sheets, personal albums, magazines and publications are also included in the exhibition to explore how these photographs were circulated, exchanged and shared.

The hinge of this history is the posing pouch, a modest fabric covering for the male genitals developed by gay physique photographers to show as much of the male body as possible. Its origins lie in the US, in the Athletic Model Guild established by Bob Mizer in 1945, although there is evidence of it being worn for sunbathing in London in the early 1930s.

A Hard Man is Good to Find! is curated by Alistair O'Neill, professor of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London).

This listing is supplied by one of our museum partners and is not moderated by Art Fund.
IndividualTiana Clarke Please note this is an example card and not a reflection of the final product

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