George Platt Lynes: Visualizing Queerness Through the Fluid Male Nude

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This thesis proposes a reading of George Platt Lynes’ homoerotic photographs as queer countertexts – media that subvert and transgress heteronormative codes. Lynes created male nude images from the 1930s to the 1950s. His work, however, was concealed because of American laws that prevented queer identities to exist and thrive in public. A key effect of homoerotic photography is its unapologetic presentation of queerness, and Lynes adapted this form to elevate queer identity through artistic illustrations of the male body as symbols of queer desire. The central argument of this study is that Lynes’ homoerotic photographs queered hetero masculinity by making fluid presentations of the male body. By departing from traditional and “ideal” depictions of maleness that privilege hard and rigid patterns, Lynes offered a way to view the male gender through the subversion of hetero visual expectations. At the theoretical level, this study builds upon Sara Ahmed’s concept of queerness as deviation. Lynes queered hetero masculinity by showing spectators that there are more ways to portray maleness beyond the muscular physiques that were celebrated in the early 20th century. To this end, the thesis engages with a body of theoretical work that considers photography as a means to reveal queer identity, an identity that has been historically marginalised, and approaches Lynes’ nudes through the intersection of homoeroticism and queerness. At the methodological level, this thesis articulates how rejected queerness re-emerges as an acknowledged and beautiful idea through Lynes’ capturing of the male nude. Through a visual discourse analysis, this thesis examines the political, visual, and narrative dimensions of Lynes work as responses to 20th-century American homophobia.
George Platt Lynes, homoerotic photography, queer visual culture
Young, M. B. (2023). George Platt Lynes: Visualizing Queerness Through the Fluid Male Nude (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from