Starting with tender portraits of anonymous couples collected at flea markets and yard sales from the 1900s onward, we take a look at vintage Pride photography, capturing LBGTQ+ love stories through the decades. In 1979, the first book published in the US by a Lesbian photographer, featuring photographs of Lesbians, is published. And in the 1980s, Sage Sohier captures moments of togetherness and joy shared by LGBTQ+ families.
The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride, published by Rizzoli, kicks off this collection of vintage Pride photography. The artist and filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz collected these photos at yard sales and flea markets. He explains:
“To obtain these images, [the couples] had to have gone to a small neighborhood photo lab to develop the film and then go back to pick up the prints. They, therefore, had to run the risk of exposing themselves socially. The need to keep a memory of their love was certainly stronger than the disapproval of some business or any concerns about what others might say.'”
Eye to Eye by JEB (aka Joan E. Biren)—widely regarded as the first book published in the US by a Lesbian photographer, featuring photographs of Lesbiansvwas made during a complex time in American History, as the Women’s Liberation, Civil Rights, and Black Feminist Movements paved the way for future generations.
JEB made her “first lesbian photograph,” a self-portrait with her lover, Sharon, in 1970. Over the next eight years, she traveled throughout the United States to meet the womyn in the book. Once it was out in the world, the book was a revelation. Everyone wanted a copy: after JEB gifted a copy to the Mt. Holyoke library, it was stolen so many times that they had to lock it up with the rare books from the Middle Ages.
In the late 1970s, Sage Sohier discovered that her father, who had separated from her mother when she was a young child, was gay. The revelation inspired her to interview and photograph LGBTQ+ families across the United States, a journey that lasted two years. The result is the beautiful book At Home with Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America.