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Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography Hardcover – Illustrated, September 17, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Ibson's research for this book took him not only to conventional sources consulted by historians but also to flea markets, gun shows, and internet auctions. He is professor of American studies at California State University, Fullerton.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588340554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588340559
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By S. Kay Murphy VINE VOICE on February 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When my son first told me about this book, he had seen it briefly at a book signing. He told me that it was "a collection of old pictures of men together," and that it was not meant to be eroticism. He was right on both counts, but the book is so much more than that. It is a chronicle--historical documentation of a segment of our culture, a glimpse of part of who we were as a society that might have been lost had not John Ibson meticulously produced this work. Can you imagine that at one time in the not so distant past, men of all walks of life--cowboys, soldiers, athletes, businessmen--felt comfortable enough with each other to display their kinship openly? A hand laid firmly on a shoulder or knee, an arm draped around another man's neck--regardless of sexual orientation, these were demonstrations of genuine affection. I bought the book because I love black and white photography and for that I knew I would appreciate the book's significance. But there is far more there; John's commentary on the culture of our times is well-researched, insightful, and extremely well-written. For historians, sociologists, collectors and artists, this book is a must.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writing in an erudite, scholarly manner Professor John Ibson has managed to present a substantive survey of the evolution of male gender perception in his PICTURING MEN: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography. And for all its heavily researched scholarship, Ibson also has created a very tender elegy about the history of male intimacy, tracing the genuinely warm comraderie as depicted in extant studio and personal photographs rom the mid 19th Century to the gradual emergence of homophobia after World War II.
This is a book that probably is best read twice: the first 'read' should be a slow thumbing through the pages of wonderfully tender and humorous photographs of men in pairs, in poses, in groups of pageant/pantomime, in dorm rooms, barracks, and in nature. The second read should be on of thoughtful attention paid to the written word, an experience which is never cloyingly sentimental, yet ever mindful of the sad fact that our society has created a ban on men expressing tenderness to other men. He wisely shows the tendency to use rough-housing and elaborate greeting techniques to convey the feelings now considered not only 'inappropriate' but worse - as in the 'Don't ask, don't tell' stance of the military. In the most sensitive chapter of this gentile book Ibson studies life in the military from the Civil War through World War II, pointing out both sides of the argument that war and its accompanying terror encourages men to bond, at least psychologically if not sexually.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. Paul Iwao on July 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
Since I came to this country almost forty years ago, I have always felt American males are the most isolated, and handicapped emotionally in the world. I don't classify this book as gay history, but it is a book on visual testaments of male emotions(affections?) when it was intact. This book will give you a smile you didn't know you had. I sincerly, and eagerly wish that we take few deep breaths, and take few backward steps to regain what we have lost not too long ago. LOVE. I thank you for this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Saxon on June 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was taken by surprise when I saw the level of affection and intimacy
captured in these photos of men from another era.I can't imagine men of my time allowing themselves to be caught in expressions of such open affection.
I seriously doubt that all these men were gay men, so how does one account for the shift in what is socially acceptable.Men of my generation would likely be most uncomfortable, I think, with what appears to be genuine affection and buddyship, but it may be that the lives of those men were enriched in a way that we can't appreciate today.
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Format: Paperback
Before I accepted myself as being attracted to men, I always found myself being disappointed in the closeness of my platonic male friendships. I had read about other cultures with physical, but non-sexual intimacy, and became immediately envious.

I now have a better understanding of why this is, because of this book. I really wish many men read this book, and they may understand themselves and their peers better.

I have read about Foucault's take on sexuality: that it doesn't really exist. Ibson discusses this as well. There really is not such a thing as a person being a homosexual; they are only inclined to be attracted to his or her own sex. I believe that this is one of the most important points in the book.

I also really appreciated the afterword, in Ibson's skepticism of Postmodernist/Poststructuralist (?) perception. Although I tend to agree with those, it is so refreshing for someone to not take that for granted! It made me think twice about what I have learned in my art school.
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