Filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz began compiling vintage photographs of queer couples when he happened upon a photo album that he realized contained the life a lesbian couple. Intrigued by the visibility with which they claimed with these photographs, despite living in the early to mid 20th century, when homosexuality was less accepted and more hidden that it is now, Lifshitz filmed a documentary – Les Invisibles (2012) – chronicling the lives of LGBT couples born between the two World Wars. Lifshitz just released a companion photo book –The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride – last month. These images capture a lifestyle that was largely invisible to the mainstream culture to which it belonged. Photography was a way for queer communities to be visible to each other and to document the lives they led, however invisible they were to the heteronormative culture of their time.
Of his collection, Lifshitz says, “I don’t know these people — they are anonymous to me. I can’t really even say that each person photographed into the book is gay, except when it’s obvious. What I like is that there are different levels of reading these photos — I would say three levels to be exact. The first one is the pictures of obviously gay single people or couples, the second is the pictures of people which can be seen as ‘undefined’ (we’re not sure) and the third level is the ones that are obviously not gay but playing with a gay attitude (cross-dresser, some ‘garçonnes,’ etc.). I love the ambiguity and diversity of these pictures. These photographs ask questions. I didn’t caption the photos because I don’t know quite anything about each of them (no name, no location mentioned most of the time). I wanted to expose them like the way I found them: without any information, like mysterious pictures.” (via brain pickings)