No matter how vivacious, all vintage photographs are poignant with history and loss, but Dear Friends' touchingly elegiac air comes from the material itself. What's been lost in the decades since these pictures were made is not just the tradition of romantic friendship but a kind of freedom and grace. Deitcher, who includes a photo of Walt Whitman with his "rebel soldier friend" Peter Doyle, lets the poet of sexual ambiguity describe the bonds memorialized in his book: "threads of manly friendship, fond and loving, pure and sweet, strong and lifelong."
photo from Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918
Men behaving affectionately: an anonymous photo from the 1840s
Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918
By David Deitcher
Abrams, 160 pp., $35
Buy this book