glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall  
page: 1  2  3  

Bruce of Los Angeles

By the end of the 1950s, Bruce Harry Bellas (1909-1974), better known as Bruce of Los Angeles, had emerged as one of the leading photographers of the eroticized male body.

Born in Alliance, Nebraska, Bellas began careers in chemistry and teaching, before moving to California in the early 1940s, where he first worked as a free-lance photographer, documenting bodybuilding competitions.

By the late 1940s Bellas had become a staff photographer for Joe Weider's bodybuilding publications and spent much of his time traveling to bodybuilding contests in several states. His photographs appeared in such magazines as Strength and Health, Muscle Power, and Tomorrow's Man.

By the 1960s Bellas was able to publish his own magazine, The Male Figure. Postal regulations forbade the posting of frontal male nudity until 1968, and as a result many of his nudes were sold out of the hotel rooms he occupied on his travels across the country.

Bruce utilized a wide range of motifs and props, so it was not unusual to see a model dressed as a cowboy, a construction worker, a buccaneer, a Spartan wrestler, or simply relaxing al fresco.


Pre-Stonewall gay male photography is sparse in images documenting gay community, but rich in images of same-sex desire. The contemporary interest in cultural imagery raises questions about the interrelationship of high and low cultural forms. Perhaps that complex relationship is most clearly illustrated by reference to pre-Stonewall gay male photography, which ranges from the high art aspirations of F. Holland Day and Minor White to the soft porn of Bruce of Los Angeles.

While some scholars have dismissed the artistic importance of subcultural work, others argue that distinctions between high and low art simply mask class privilege and academic elitism. No matter the verdict, pre-Stonewall gay male photography offers an abundance of images that blur the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.

Ken Gonzales-Day

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts

   Related Entries
arts >> Overview:  Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male

Given the historic stigma around making, circulating, and possessing overtly homoerotic images, the visual arts have been especially important for providing a socially sanctioned arena for depicting the naked male body and suggesting homoerotic desire.

arts >> Overview:  Photography: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

Post-Stonewall gay male photography merits recognition for its contribution to fine art, documentation, photo-journalism, and advertising, as well as erotica.

arts >> Overview:  The Western

A distinctive American narrative genre that has developed over more than two centuries, the Western is now consumed worldwide; characteristically depicting homosocial relationships, it is also frequently suffused with homoeroticism.

arts >> Beaton, Sir Cecil

The celebrated British photographer Cecil Beaton described himself as a "terrible, terrible homosexualist," but may be best known for his relationship with Greta Garbo.

arts >> Cadmus, Paul

American painter Paul Cadmus is best known for the satiric innocence of his frequently censored paintings of burly men in skin-tight clothes, but he also created works that celebrate same-sex domesticity.

arts >> Day, F. Holland

American intellectual publisher, aesthete, and photographer, F. Holland Day created homoerotic photographs notable for their relation to fin de siècle cultural interests.

arts >> French, Jared

Dissatisfied with merely describing the material world, American painter Jared French devised a pictorial language to explore human unconsciousness and its relation to sexuality.

arts >> Gloeden, Wilhelm von, Baron

One of the earliest gay photographers of the male nude, Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden created images that evoke a dreamy vision of forbidden desire, while also raising questions about sexual tourism and kitsch.

arts >> Horst, Horst P.

German-born American photographer Horst P. Horst, known most widely as simply "Horst," created some of the most memorable images of the mid-twentieth century.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

social sciences >> Kinsey Institute

The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, established by Alfred Kinsey in 1947, has pioneered in the study of American sexual behavior.

arts >> List, Herbert

German photographer Herbert List is best known for his images of young men and boys, which combine eroticism with an avant garde sensibility.

arts >> Lynes, George Platt

American photographer George Platt Lynes made his fame as a fashion and portrait photographer, but his greatest work may have been his dance images and male nudes.

arts >> Quaintance, George

An influential figure in a unique American style of art, George Quaintance was a pioneer of male physique painting.

arts >> Roberts, Mel

In his 1960s and 1970s images of hikers, bikers, and surfers, photographer and activist Mel Roberts captured the spirit of the California Dream that lured thousands of gay men to the Golden State in search of freedom and opportunity after World War II.

arts >> Robinson, Jack

Photographer Jack Robinson came to prominence as a result of the stunning fashion and celebrity photographs he shot for magazines in the 1960s, but he also created significant images that document the gay subculture of New Orleans in the 1950s.

arts >> Teske, Edmund

American photographer Edmund Teske created a distinct and inventive body of work that embraced multiple styles and subjects, from somber urban vistas to intimate, often eroticized, portraits.

arts >> White, Minor

Renowned photographer, teacher, critic, editor, and curator, Minor White created some of the most interesting photographs of male nudes of the second half of the twentieth century, but did not exhibit them for fear of scandal.

literature >> Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.


Cadmus, Paul, Margaret French, and Jared French. Collaboration: The Photographs of Paul Cadmus, Margaret French and Jared French. Sante Fe, N. M.: Twelvetrees Press, 1992.

Crump, James. George Platt Lynes: Photographs from the Kinsey Institute. Bruce Weber, intro. Bullfinch Press Book. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.

Deitcher, David. Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1919. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Dolinsky, Jim, ed. Bruce of Los Angeles. Berlin: Bruno Gmünder, 1990.

Gonzales-Day, Ken. "Visual Arts." St. James Press Gay and Lesbian Almanac. Neil Schlager, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998. 489-504.

Waugh, Thomas. Hard to Imagine: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film from Their Beginnings to Stonewall. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Woody, Jack. George Platt Lynes: Photographs 1931-55. Pasadena, Calif.: Twelve Trees Press, 1981.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gonzales-Day, Ken  
    Entry Title: Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 5, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.