Armchair Historians

Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s

December 09, 2020 Hugh Nini, Neal Treadwell, Anne Marie Cannon
Armchair Historians
Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s
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Armchair Historians
Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s
Dec 09, 2020
Hugh Nini, Neal Treadwell, Anne Marie Cannon

A couple weeks ago Anne Marie talked to married couple Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell. authors of the newly published book Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s. Hugh and Neal have been happily married for 30 years. The love between them is palpable, even after all those years.

They called it the accidental collection and what began as a lucky coincidence became a rescue mission. Charged with protecting antiquity, Hugh and Neal, doggedly went about acquiring and preserving this visual narrative of men in love. Approximately 3,000 photos in, with the encouragement of others, they decided to share their collection with the world. 

Bringing to light the hidden history that was always there but unseen, and according to Hugh a “powerful depiction of love between two people.”

Resources:
More on Hugh, Neal and the book:
Website: https://www.loving1000.org/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lovingbynealandhugh/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ntreadwell

Mentioned in episode:
Rupert Brook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke
Duncan Grant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke
Duncan Grant works of art: http://www.artnet.com/artists/duncan-grant/3
Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: https://youtu.be/TQEpknjUeZg 

To Support Armchair Historians:
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/armchairhistorians
Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/belgiumrabbitproductions


Show Notes Transcript

A couple weeks ago Anne Marie talked to married couple Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell. authors of the newly published book Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s. Hugh and Neal have been happily married for 30 years. The love between them is palpable, even after all those years.

They called it the accidental collection and what began as a lucky coincidence became a rescue mission. Charged with protecting antiquity, Hugh and Neal, doggedly went about acquiring and preserving this visual narrative of men in love. Approximately 3,000 photos in, with the encouragement of others, they decided to share their collection with the world. 

Bringing to light the hidden history that was always there but unseen, and according to Hugh a “powerful depiction of love between two people.”

Resources:
More on Hugh, Neal and the book:
Website: https://www.loving1000.org/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lovingbynealandhugh/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ntreadwell

Mentioned in episode:
Rupert Brook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke
Duncan Grant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke
Duncan Grant works of art: http://www.artnet.com/artists/duncan-grant/3
Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: https://youtu.be/TQEpknjUeZg 

To Support Armchair Historians:
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/armchairhistorians
Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/belgiumrabbitproductions


Anne Marie Cannon:

Hello, my name is Anne Marie Cannon and I'm the host of armchair historians. What's your favorite history? Each episode begins with this one question. Our guests come from all walks of life, YouTube celebrities, comedians, historians, even neighbors from the small mountain community that I live in. There are people who love history and get really excited about a particular time, place or person from our distant or not so distant past. The jumping off point is a place where they became curious, then enters the rabbit hole into discovery. Fueled by an unrelenting need to know more, we look at history through the filter of other people's eyes. armchair historians is a Belgian rabbit production. Stay up to date with us through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Wherever you listen to your podcast that is where you'll find us. I'm chair historians as an independent, commercial free podcast. If you'd like to support the show and keep it ad free, you can buy us a cup of coffee through cofee or you can become a patron through Patreon links to both in the Episode Notes. Anne Marie here. A couple weeks ago, I talked to a married couple que naini and Neil Treadwell, others of the newly published book loving a photographic history of men in love 1850s to 1950s. You and Neil had been happily married for 30 years. The love between them is palpable. Even after all of those years, they called it the accidental collection. And what began as a lucky coincidence became a rescue mission. charged with protecting antiquity, Hugh and Neil doggedly went about acquiring and preserving this visual narrative of men in love approximately 3000 photos in with the encouragement of others, they decided to share their collection with the world, bringing to light the hidden history that was always there, but unseen. And according to you, a powerful depiction of love between two people, PS, the intro and outro music, Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini. Or as I tend to think of it, the eternal love song from somewhere in time, was chosen by Hugh and Neil. And the significance of it is that it was their wedding song. So Neil, and Hugh, welcome, and thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for having us. Thank you. We're going to just get right off to the races. And I'm going to ask you the question. The question is, what is your favorite history that we're going to be talking about today?

Hugh Nini:

photographic history of men in love.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Perfect. So tell me about that. And why did you pick that history and

Hugh Nini:

we didn't take it, it actually picked us. It was a Sunday afternoon coming home from church on our way to our house, we stopped off at this antique mall that we had been to many times before. And we just went browsing around looking for nothing in particular. And Neil stumbled across a box with some photographs in it. And the photographs were pretty unremarkable except for one, and it was a male couple. And they were embracing one was behind the other had his arms around the man in front of them and they leaning into each other. It's just a very sweet embrace. And it was, we've never seen a photograph like that before. That was this old. So this was probably taken some time in the 1920s. And so here we are looking at a photograph of a romantic male couple that's 80 years old, and somehow survived those eight years to end up in Dallas, Texas, in our hands. And we bought it it was I think we paid about $5 for it. When we went to the checkout station, we put it at the bottom of the stash because the other photos are pretty, as I said, unremarkable, hoping that they wouldn't go through the pile and say, Oh, wait a minute, this is this is extra special, we have to charge you 10 times more something. We paid five bucks for the whole thing. And we took it home. We didn't have any plans for it. And we didn't know why we had it. And it's sat around in our desk for about probably about a year. I want to say we just as we clean up the desk, it would move from piles of pile to pile and they would have different places on the desk. And then eventually a second one showed up. And that's that was sort of the beginning of the beginning of the beginning.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So is that one one actually in the book.

Hugh Nini:

Actually, it's not. And we were going to the whole selection of photos of a group that would go into the book. That one didn't make it It wasn't that it wasn't a wonderful photograph. It's just that there were others that were more important that fed into the story that we had to present. It's also just a tiny, tiny bit blurry and taken from a distance a little bit dark. And the tone of the photograph and the message of the photograph is very strong. It just wasn't a good candidate for for being in a large format like an art book.

Anne Marie Cannon:

There's a lot of pictures in that book. I was prize because you do preface kind of like two purposes. One of them is a creative essay. And then you talk about the collection. And then it's all the pictures. And I was, I was expecting there to be more words in the book. And I don't mind that they're earned because I love looking at picture books. This is a coffee table picture focus what it is basically, I was really surprised to how many photos are in it. And you said a second one showed up? What does that mean? Well, you remember,

Neal Treadwell:

it was a second photo show that well, we in collecting, it was probably about six, nine months later. And we came across one at an auction. And it is a couple of two soldiers. And it was in the glass frame and etched on the glass or leaning into each other their heads are touching. And it says yours always. It was just so sweet. That writing captured with the look on their face and the love in their eyes and the just the emotion you got out of it. We had to have it. And that was a second one. We don't know what the third one is. We never expected to be collecting really easy. We just follow these. We thought the first one was the only one and then we found the second one. It wasn't probably until about number 300 or 400 that we realized we were collecting. How many? How many photos do you have about all together? We now have over 3000 photographs?

Anne Marie Cannon:

Oh my gosh, that became an obsession.

Hugh Nini:

not right away. In the beginning it was preservation activity. It was you know, how do we keep this photo around for another eight years. And then the second one that we found, it was taken in the 40s. So it's sell into a range that eventually developed in our collection, which is prior to 1960. And after after 1850. That that century mark. But it, we just started looking a little bit and finding more in the first few years were pretty slow. There weren't a lot of a lot of ways to find these photographs like there is today, you actually had to do the footwork. And fortunately for us what the thing we had in our favor was Neil's job required him to travel all over the United States all the time for you know, decades. And as well, we have very close friends in Budapest and Paris. And we visit them every summer for the last 20 years. So we're in contact with they're not collectors were the collectors, I guess there would be like vendors and people who are selling these photographs and all sorts of other kinds of photographs, not just this time. So we make contact with vendors in in Europe and all over the United States. And that's how it all sort of got rolling, but we didn't even realize that we were quote unquote, collecting until about six years into it or more down by six years into it. Because if you think about it, photography really wasn't considered as art until probably the mid like 1950s 40s, something like that. And what we have is binocular photography, it's photography, photographs have been taken just by anyone and no one in particular. And that is now become an art, because it's something that doesn't really exist anymore. And all photos are taken by your iPhone or your iPad, and they're all disposable. So vernacular photography is just another type of art that's out there now. So you have these people that collect or just gather photos, thinking that someone you know, might want some obscure photograph, whether it's homes or dogs or cats or whatever it is that they like, in arcis happens to be the photographs of romantic men, a lot of

Anne Marie Cannon:

what moves me about it is it's a claiming a history that has been denied that has been villainized that has been criminalized. And it's claiming it in a very beautiful and loving way because I can I can tell from reading you guys are romantic, like totally Yeah, thing. And I love that that's the filter that I'm looking at these through. I know you talk a lot in the book, when you talk in the book about. the criteria for choosing these pictures. And you say one of the criteria is luck. Can you tell me about the luck, so I'm sure you've had friends and family members who have fallen in love and didn't need to tell you that they were in love because you could tell by the look on their face, right? And so these men and these photographs they have that look, sometimes the look is obscured because they're kissing so you know that that settles that. Somethings going on there on there?

Hugh Nini:

Not happy birthday. That look is that our criteria we call it the 5050 rule. And that is that The photographs for us to collect it has to be at least we have to feel it's 50% likely that they are a couple, there are no 5050 photographs. In the book, we have about, I don't know, maybe 100 and out of the 3000 in our collection, but our 5050 parameter was put to a test once when we were collecting these photographs of the world war two couples, john and Dario, they were stationed in Europe during World War Two. And the first five or six photographs we collected of them, they were very tame, they were just standing side by side, but there was a look in their eyes that, you know, it was faint, but we picked up on it. And we said, we think this is a couple. And if it's not expensive, we'll go ahead and spend the money on a 5050 photograph. So we had five or six of those. And then a little bit later, the one of the two of them embracing in the snow, wearing rings on their wedding ring on their wedding ring finger in a very romantic embrace, showed up, which proved what we suspected all along from the first five or six photographs that we got, john and Dario were just you can't make this stuff up. And they were members of the 42nd Infantry Division, nicknamed the rainbow division. And it didn't mean what it means today, it was in the 1970s, after World War One. But if I can go a little further, fascinating thing that we discovered later is that the rainbow division is very famous two books have been written about it. And they're famous because on April 29 19 4045, they were fighting across Germany at a tour of the town of cow. And as they got to the outskirts of the town, somebody from the town stopped them and said, don't go into the town, follow this road down to the forest. And they slipped, they were told you'll find a cure, they were told in German, a concentration camp, they didn't know what they were looking there. They didn't know what they were gonna run into, of course, they ran into unspeakable horror. And so the rainbow division liberated dock out on April 29 1945, Germany surrendered and the war was over in Europe A week later. And then sometimes shortly after that john and Dario are in the Alps in Austria, in the snow embracing, having their picture taken wearing rings.

Anne Marie Cannon:

And that just adds so much depth to the pictures. Because it's like, not only is there the story of their love, but there's also the understanding of what they just witnessed. And took pictures at doc out of some of the pictures are famous and are reprinted in books all over the world. But he took his own personal pictures of the concentration camp entrance and a really horrible photograph of a boxcar full of bodies. And it's so he has, he was he was actually it's confirmed that they were actually there. Not everybody in the 42nd Infantry Division was there that day. But john and Dario works. I'm getting really emotional.

Hugh Nini:

I've got this is the first time I've gotten through telling the story without crying.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So there's a there's a couple of reasons why, because my mother was born in Belgium, her family fled to Belgium When the Germans were advancing, and I'm actually working on a documentary about that. So there's that whole horror and reality, her family was massacred in World War One by the Germans. It's a long story. So there's that. And then there, just what's going on with my daughter is married to a woman. And I have to tell you, in the past four years, it's been really scary to think that, you know, all these pioneers bought for her to be able to have that. And that right, and I don't think she understands it in the way that I do. And then we have this administration, who, if it was up to them, they would take that, you know, human right away. And so then when you're telling me about what they saw, and what they expect, it just, it's all converging on me emotionally. And I'm, I can't thank you enough for sharing this collection with us. reom,

Hugh Nini:

it started to settle in, in in us that, that this collection was important. This is maybe starting to form about maybe 12, eight years ago, maybe nine years ago, we started to think oh, my gosh, this is actually an important collection. And this needs somebody besides just the two of us needs to be seen this. And then it was just trying to figure out how to do that. And that's what eventually led to this book. Because, you know, there I think there are people out there that want to see this collection want to see the book and want to see its contents and wants to have their lives, you know, impacted and changed a little bit. So.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Yeah, one of the questions I always ask is, why is this history important? Which I think we've, we've kind of just talked about it, but maybe you can expound on that a little bit more.

Neal Treadwell:

Well, I think it has a lot of different avenues to take to pull out important in one that we have waived come across as being just the the recognition part of family and showing that we're nothing new that couples, male couples went female couples have been around forever. And in a lot of our photographs, you see family connection, you see the family support, that's there. And so it's one, it was a challenge to take the photographs, and but seeing that there are some family unity in those photos has been pretty powerful. But we also have received so many emails from the book about how it has made a difference in people's lives and, and how they're sharing the book. We had a grandparents that bought it for their grandson, and they did a dedication saying this is for you, and your fiance and celebration of your engagement. And it said Grandma, Jude and pawpaw and Aaron pups name and almost lost it when I read it. It was just so hard touching. And we get these emails, don't cry, because I would start crying all the time. We have a young man, that was actually one of us, former students, heterosexual and married, married married now. And he bought it for his dad who just came out who's in it. Oh, wow. So you know, there's parents buying it for their children, children buying it for their parents brothers buying it for their sister. Yeah, it's just cross over. And they're talking about what it means to them and how it's made a difference and hoping or hoping it'll make a difference in the relationship between themselves. And so you just get kind of overwhelmed at what people share with you. Because it opens up just a different perspective of what we are doing. We thought we were doing but it just brings to light to and one of the things that historically speaking, I actually just it's occurred to me last night thinking about coming into this interview. Prior to photography, you had to have the interest in intention of an artist or something like that, who was going to paint your portrait as a couple or as Dukha visit a doctor for that, or whatever. That's that was that was the template for you know, being presented and represented historically, before photography, photography comes along, and all of a sudden, we can do this ourselves, we don't need you. We may have to hide it to keep it alive, and survive and surviving. But we can bypass all of those social hurdles and just take, you can take your own picture starting at least in 1902. And prior to that, all you need would be a sympathetic photographer, which I'm sure there were many.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Well, and what audacity, what are Dasa T for somebody in the 1850s, who was in love and their love was criminalized that they would take those pictures. And what a

Hugh Nini:

lot of the criminalisation came on later, actually, like, Yeah, I just I'm we're not sure how much audacity there was back then. Because there certainly was not all of the there wasn't the anti gay industry that exists today, and is really well funded. These people that they spend every, every waking minute of every day, thinking about how they can ruin our lives, because that's their mission, and they get paid a lot of money to do that, that didn't exist during this time. I think that what we've seen at least is that there are a lot of examples of couples that were very comfortable with their friends and families. And they're the pictures were taken as a group. And, you know, I'm sure they're sure wasn't a walk in the park for everybody, probably not for most of them. But it's I think it's an open question as to whether or not it was worse than than it is now. As we, you know, talked about briefly, we've gotten you know, very scary Supreme Court sitting there in Washington right now and that, who knows what that could lead to. There's there's also the, the if you look at it from a photography aspect of it, so 10 types started around the 1860s and 10 types are it's a positive on to attend. So there was never a negative used to when the photograph was taken, it is processed and handed to the person within 10 to 15 minutes. So you know, you could slip in something really fast. And you know, I'm sure the photographer's on to the next person because they were doing this at state fairs and carnivals, and places like that to take the photographs. So that was photo booth. Yeah. And then there's the photo booth where you get into a booth and you know, you're there the subject, you're the photographer, and you're the developer and nobody has to know anything, and there's a lot of we have a huge photobooth section. So that was eight you're able to you know, get away with a lot that way.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So one of the questions I have for you is It's, I mean, it's an assumption on your part with these pictures that they are people that are in love. And you base it on the look. But have you had that any of the photos? Have you had it validated that? Yes, indeed, that is what you were saying as

Hugh Nini:

well, though, the photographs of john and Dario the two soldiers from World War Two, the reason we know so much about them is we got the photographs from his nephew. And no, he was only out to his nephew. Nobody else. JOHN, sadly, was confined to a wheelchair after world war two for the rest of his life, because he came down with muscular dystrophy. And he and his mother, john and his mother lived next door to john sister, and this person was his nephew. That's the connection that we have with john Neff. He was alive today. And he's filled us in on a lot of information about his uncle. And

Anne Marie Cannon:

it's, so it's a nephew of the one that you bought the photos off of. Okay. Wow.

Neal Treadwell:

And then we have several photos that came from a photo album. So the photo album tells the story as well, with the interaction, not the one photograph, it's several photographs of the two guys together in a normal everyday life, and then loving photos as well and extend. And we would say that we have evidence that they are in love with each other, the photographs, you know, they show that and but this is where we where we stop short. We don't identify anyone in the book as gay, because we don't have those pictures. We can identify john is gay because he told his nephew that he was gay. And he lived his life as a closeted gay man until he passed away in his 70s. So we're not saying anybody's, you know, gay or homosexual. We're saying that they're in love with each other.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I love that. Another question I like to ask is, where can we learn more about this history of this elusive history? Besides your book,

Hugh Nini:

I think we're it seriously, it's interesting that the the books that have been published that are sort of on the outskirts of this collection, they tiptoe up to it, but they never quite get there. Historically, over the last 20 years have been about five or six books that have been published. And we eventually ended up owning them all, but we didn't know about them. When we started our collecting, this collection is not just what's in the book, but over 3000 that we have, and you're not even seeing the 10s if not hundreds of 1000s that we didn't collect, we just went not quite right for our collection. And it's so laser focused on this subjects being in love with each other. And we have not seen anybody else doing that. They may be we just don't know about it. And just can we can we even have people reach out to us and say, Well, I collect photographs like this, however, they brought magsafe. But they're not quite like this, because yours really focus on a loving photograph of two people together. So you know, it just reinforces our thoughts that, you know, we homed in on one specific, we'll see photographs that depict two men who are out, camping it up, you know, they're, they're obviously gay. And they're, they're playing it up a little bit. We don't collect that photo. That's just people having fun. We collect photos to people like that are expressing love towards one another that will go on our collection. And you know, to go back to your question about where can you find more history about this? I think one of the things that we want to accomplish this book is to hopefully build on that history, to have people be flipping through the book and say, Oh, my gosh, that's my great, great uncle, or that's my great, great cousin or somewhere it can be their grandfather, you know, who had to go to a straight line or something that we have, we have had one interesting story that's come about, but it's just getting getting people to have that conversation. Or maybe they have a photograph that they look at differently now and go, Oh my gosh, that was my uncle. And that was his boyfriend for all the years, the two bachelor's and maybe they want to share it with us. The day after the Guardian article hits. Somebody, a professor from Vienna, contacted the Guardian newspaper and said, Could you get in touch with the author's? I know who these two people are in the photograph? I would just like to know if they can tell us when it was taken, and who took it and could it have been this person, this person, this person, and he identified the two people in the photograph graph is Rupert Brooke, a famous British poet and Duncan grant, a famous British artist. So we googled their names when we saw that, and holy cow. If it's not them, it's their twins. And so this is Rupert, the poet and Duncan grant, the artist and the picture was taken in probably think about 1915 because Rupert Brooke passed away at a young age. I think he's 28 from an infected mosquito bite of all things. But it's a it's a two page spread. It's basically To 10 and 11 in the book and it's a gorgeous photograph Neil shaver was my favorite. Even before this, I just I, if it's a work of art it you know, hits down. It's stunning aces on every aspect of it looks like something.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Do you know which one is my favorite?

Hugh Nini:

We'd love. Yes, we'd love to know,

Anne Marie Cannon:

that's the one of the two young men look like teenagers. And they have the sign. It says, not married, but willing to and to look on their face. They're so sweet and so innocent. And they just look so earnest. I love that picture. That's my favorite. I feel like it just says volumes.

nea:

That that photo is one of five and a strip of the two of the two guys. And two of the photos are in the book, there's that one. But then there's the validation of them holding the sign because that was a prop that a photo of photographer would use. And it's usually a single man that dresses up in his best clothes, Sunday clothes and hold the sign hoping that you know you can pass it around to find a young lady that would like him, and your two guys that held it together. And it wasn't that they were both promoting themselves or wanting another woman there's a beautiful photo beside it, that really tell it because you can see in their eyes, they're in love. But there's a photo seven umbrella they're looking at each other in their fingers are intertwined on the stem of the umbrella. And so between those two and the others, and it just is planted on a slant, it pulls at your heartstrings to see it and awareness for for a couple that young 100, approximately 120 years ago to end and what we've discovered. And we collect these photographs based on the look. And it wasn't until we started choosing them to the book, and seeing the larger scans of them that we notice how many of these couples have wearing wedding rings. And they're not married to women, they're, you know, this is wedding rings. And between the two of them. This photograph of this young couple, and along with so many other photographs in the collection has informed us that you know we've been together almost 30 years and that we're nothing new in the evolution of history and society that we can document archive our type of relationships all the way back to the beginning of photography. As I was saying, as we're getting into the book closer and closer, it wasn't until that point that we started noticing all the jewelry that we had missed because we were only checking out the looks in their eyes. And this the your favorite photograph doesn't have any jewelry, but that sign is, you know, worth the Hope Diamond I think.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So when did you start documenting more of the experience of finding the photos and that type of thing? It was,

Hugh Nini:

I think after we moved here to New York, and he started adding that adding all of the photographs. It was while we're still in Dallas, actually, Yeah, a little bit before. So around 2010, maybe halfway, Martin, I decided we better keep some type of record. And you know, instead of just keeping paper records, which we do, we still like paper. We have the whole scan the date, where we found it and the size. If there's any writing on it, because a lot of the photographs that's something else that gave us clues to the photographs, there could be names on the back and little things. Oh, well. The two guys with man staying behind them that says Oh, yeah, Eddie expressed a new kind of war with Jerry last night or something like that. And so if you look at the photographs with his two guys, and then there's guys standing behind them with his hands on there's two shoulders, and they all look like they're holding hands. Their hands. That's right, right. But you're wondering, like, what is this all about? And then there's the riding on the back. Now? It's 1915 that's 1915 that photograph I remember. Oh, wow. There's sweet things that come out. We just got a photograph that today that it's a gynecol barrel holding a baby and another guy pushing him second. Yeah, no, it didn't cut it, but it's on its way. And I thought this is so cute. I mean, you know, but it's, it looks like it could be maybe two brothers and modelling a child or something like that. And on the back of it, it says, pushing my boyfriend and Charlotte in a wheelbarrow and then says love something on the bottom of it. So yeah, I just happen to see the back of the photograph, which solidify me saying this is my boyfriend and his photo

Anne Marie Cannon:

and know how old he was about what time period is the photo?

Hugh Nini:

That one looks like it's about 1930s Oh, wow. 40s probably, you know one other interesting thing about because people are always trying to cover is this really what they're claiming it is and so are you familiar with author Christopher Isherwood Now he's he wrote the short story that led to the movie cabaret with Liza Minnelli in it.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Oh, okay. Yeah,

Hugh Nini:

British author, very famous, he was famously gay. And he and his boyfriend have tons of pictures taken three, World War Two. And if you look at pictures of the two of them, you think you're looking at a picture of two strangers, there's absolutely nothing in that photograph that would indicate that they even know each other, much less are a couple and have an intimate, physical relationship. So for all of the, you know, you, it's possible that you could find a photograph for two people who look like strangers, but artifacts of you know, married to each other.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Where if we do where do we see this history in pop culture? Do we?

Hugh Nini:

Now we do. It's just incredible how movies, or television shows and things like that have opened up and started to embrace this, you know, this notion that a male couple, or a female couple can be in love with each other and have a life together and committed and just, you know, in all the same ways that that, you know, heterosexuals have have passed for years. And what we've discovered in before the public, before we publish the book, we sort of test drove the collection a little bit, we put together a slideshow presentation with music. And people knew that we were that we were going to publish a book, but they have absolutely no idea whatsoever what it was about, we didn't tell them anything. And so when when it was possible when they were in our presence, because we wouldn't ever email this out to anybody, because we didn't want the contents to get out. And we would say, Would you like to see the book and they'd say, yes, and then we'd sit them down in front of the TV, we'd start the slideshow, and they would just be gobsmacked into silence, unable to speak, there were so overwhelmed by what they were seeing peers often and this is I'm talking about my best friend and his wife from Houston and no friends of ours from here and friends of ours from there, straight people, you know, gay people, sometimes, but I think mostly straight people. And everybody's reaction was the same, they were just bowled over by the the message of love. That is the same love that you know that Neil and I feel that our parents felt that you know, other other couples feel it's not a different love for these different categories. It's the same love, we all sit under the same umbrella of love. And it's, it's interesting, because we didn't really start showing this collection to anyone until like a seven or eight years ago. And it wasn't, we didn't worry, anybody would want to see it. We didn't we didn't think we thought we were collecting something meaningful to us. But they might think we're a little strange for collecting, you know, photographs of dead people. But you know that, but there was emotion there to us. We never talked about not showing up individually. We didn't we never thought we should show this to our friend that's coming over because there's lots of friends and family and so forth. It just it was never a thought in our head that we would show this to anybody for no other reason that we just didn't think anybody would be interested.

Anne Marie Cannon:

When did it occur to you? Today is

Neal Treadwell:

it's Tony down there. One of the guys that we had purchased photographs from we bought we had been a while we pursue a photograph from him. And she was communicating back and forth. And he's he said, Oh my gosh, wait, don't send a photograph to our home in Dallas. We live in New York now. And he gave him our dress. And Tony wrote back, you live two blocks from me. So that photograph has slipped through our mail slot. And then a couple of months later, there was another photograph that he bought. And so he said, why don't we just meet up at Starbucks or something. And you know, and just a little coffee and chat. And so when we met up, we took we have all the photographs and albums. Now we take care of them and make them look really nice. And so we took two albums with us and sat down and he said, Would you like to see what we've been doing and what we've collected? He said, Sure. So he handed him the first album. And he opened it up. And he flipped over it page by page taking in all the photographs. But that one down to the next one. Age by age went through all of it. And at the end just

Anne Marie Cannon:

shut it and looked at us. And he

Hugh Nini:

said, You've got to publish this. And that was the last thing we were expecting to hear because we thought he would he would think that our collection was kind of pitiful or something. And we had, we'd only collected five or six photographs from him over the years. And this was the one of the first one since moved to New York. And anyway, we thought that he was just trying to get out of the conversation politely. But it wasn't the last week. It was that was the beginning of us starting to show it. I think, actually I think the next time we saw it was five years later, wasn't it? It was Jen, a friend of mine probably five years later, she said the same thing. You just got to publish these. And so then we started showing them to more friends and started getting the same response and so we had already started to feel A sense of responsibility and obligation to share this with the world. And this was just confirmation coming from the universe saying, Yeah, you're supposed to do this, figure it out quick.

Anne Marie Cannon:

And so you you had a publisher? Or did you publish it yourself?

Hugh Nini:

A friend that I work with, at my company, had a friend who did writings and our writers is a writer, or for the art. And he said, I know someone, a publisher, I'm going to meet him in Milan. And so we gave him a memory stick with some photos on it just to show and about. So he goes in to do his little presentation says, I want to show you something that friends of mine have given them respect, and opted in. And he's showing some photographs going through on his screen, and about the 10th. One, he says, I've got to meet these guys. And so this is a publisher in Milan, within a month, is sitting in our apartment here, looking at the photographs going through. And it has just snowballed from there. It's a straight man, as children, but he saw the importance of the photographs and the message that they carried. And what it would mean to have a book like that that would be published that would share this message. And we got very lucky with getting thrown together with him. He's he does some of the best art books in the world. And the quality, you have the book, you could sit here. And it's so stunning. Yeah. And he talked from the very beginning about how the quality that he wanted to produce with this collection is a publisher, but he's also a citizen of the world. And he's an artist. In his mind. He's an artist at the very beginning, he understood everything fully, it was automatic with him. And so we feel very lucky that we have someone with his vision, were able to collaborate with someone if his vision. And what he was able to do is build we call it the loving community, people win at this project as having a baby. And so that's how he talked about it and giving birth to a baby. And it did take a little over nine months, so but he brought together two designers from Montreal, Canada, that designed the book with us, he was able to find a phenomenal photography scanner. It was from Belgium. And so we flew over to Italy to take the photographs, the man who scanned the photographs, drove down from Belgium, we all met together. There was that aspect from it. And then he reached out and he said, You know, this needs to be a global launch. Usually, a book is launched. And if it's someone from the US, it's their project, and it launches in the US and slowly around the world. And we launched in English, German, French and Italian at the same time on October 14, and one month later, which has now added Spanish into the additions. So it gave the the world appeal and which helped really with pushing the book and press the amount of press that we receive from around the world from Germany and France and Italy, as well as the US as genuine Finland ever I know it's weekend even in families. We get through Instagram, we get press reaching out to us all the time from all these things here. Well, not a lot of countries, but just tiny countries just wanting to see some of the history and wanting to share our message because they see the importance of universal. Yes, we woke up today. So a couple of friends of ours who live in Barcelona. And they said good morning. Look, you're on our TV in our living room. A Spanish news program national news program is running a story about our book on a television in Barcelona. And so they filmed it with their iPhone incentive to us. And yes, yesterday, the BBC. Real Pat us on one of my high school friends, who is now a Southern Baptist minister, female female minister sent me a message on Sunday night saying, Oh my gosh, you caused her famous for some real news, BBC real. And there was

Anne Marie Cannon:

it just My heart is so full with this. It really is.

Hugh Nini:

We would like to clear up something. The only complaint if you want to call it a complaint that we've had about the book is that it doesn't have more people of color in it. And the reason for that is really simple. We have over 3000 photographs in our collection. And we have collected every single photograph of an African American couple or biracial couples that we've come across every single one of them and that's a number of about 30, maybe 30 they're very rare, extremely rare. And when you're lucky enough to find one, it's going to cost you a lot because they're expensive. And so we've been able to collect we think around 30 to didn't haven't done a head count but we think it's 30 and when it comes down to taking a collection of 3000 down to 327 then you get into a What can be reproduced in the book in a large format. And two of the photographs of African American couples were very good, and a good fit for that. And they're in the book. And but the reason there's not more than 30 is that there's just, there's just not that many out there. We wish there were more, and we will continue to collect every single one that we can find. But at that point, that's the point of publication we have two to choose from and Pokemon into the book. One other thing that gets brought up is, a lot of times people will say, Well, what about two women in your book? And are there any photographs that you collect on that? And we didn't realize we were collecting? What we have now just started, you know, it just organically happened? Because someone else wanted to do a book about that we

Anne Marie Cannon:

What a great idea. I know, there's probably people out there with that collection that

Hugh Nini:

are tapped out. So just know, couples. That's it. That's all we can afford. We know our collection really well. The book is a manifestation of the collection. And when it was finally done, and we received our copy about a month ago, did you go through it a number of ways I didn't either, we just kind of nervous opened up, opened it up and see what happened because the process was really very productive and very collaborative. And then there's that point, oh, 1%, that everybody disagrees about some aspect of it, and everybody gets, you know, heated about it. And it seems bigger than the whole 99.9% that came before it. But I didn't open the book until about a few days ago, and even look through it. And it was in preparation for another interview we were doing. Because we couldn't tell by looking at the book, if the message of our collection was speaking or not, we're just too close to it. And it was after it was published. And we started getting responses from people from all over the world, in places where the book doesn't even exist, but they saw an article about and they're inspiring about it, they share and they have shared some of the most amazing, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming stories with us. And that sharing and to be able to hear that because of this book from these people that we don't even know, confirm for us that the message of the book did come through. And it confirmed that people are able to hear the message and in some small way, and then maybe in some in a more significant way. It has, you know, been healing or closure for some part of their life that was a little bit of an open wounds are something that's what's been expressed to us. And so it confirmed for us that the book didn't succeed and what we hoped it would and that is to propel this message of romantic love for anybody who wants to know about it wants to hear about it wants to you know, take it in and then women, you know, male couples, female couples and heterosexual single people who just want to, you know, know that this, this is a real thing. And it's coming from an unexpected place, a place that, in order for it to be here today in book form, had to be hidden during its lifetime and survive all the years after that, or to end up under our roof and in this book, ultimately. Right. And I think you mentioned that in the one of the part of the foreword about it's not just claiming a history, but it's validating their history. And each person in the photograph, where we put it is that they are getting to narrate their own lives. First time in history, right? They have their lives were narrated by everybody else. And they had to stand by silently and listen to that. And now they could narrate their own lives and we were in love with each other. We mattered to one another. This is what our life is like.

Anne Marie Cannon:

And that's beautiful. That's everything. So that's really cool. There is another thing I wanted to ask is tell us about the umbrella pictures.

Hugh Nini:

The first one we got we actually we bought because of the look on the two guy's face. We didn't even think early. I was really early one of the first few. That one we bought and then it was probably a couple of years later, we found another one two guys under an umbrella. And then they just started slowly, organically showing me like one is kind of interesting. There's kind of a thing going on with this and it just shows it. You know, we look at different ways but it is kind of like a rainbow. back before there was the rainbow because it shows protection. It shows unity between the two. There's one photograph in the book where two guys are snuggled up behind the umbrella and there's three ladies behind them like they're protecting but there's that umbrella that's embracing them as well.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I think we have about

Hugh Nini:

80 Yeah, we started to notice the pattern about five or six into it and starting in the late 1860s going up to the late 1920s. And you see this pattern of a male couples declaring themselves to be a couple by standing under an umbrella together that we were only collecting the photographs because of the look in their eyes that we talked about earlier. The umbrella just started to Notice pattern as they accumulated more and more and more, but it was it was some kind of a declaration secret code or something. We haven't found a confirmation on that way. There's still there's nothing written about it. The only thing is our photographs. But you know, the photographs speak for themselves, we have, like you said, 50, maybe or more. And it's a message,

Anne Marie Cannon:

they're sending out a message to somebody. Right? And they wouldn't know. But I mean, just the fact that you see that pattern and you, you express it, I think it's part of claiming the history and

Hugh Nini:

claiming it and revealing it for the first time. Yeah, we did have one interesting one show up, it happened through Instagram, there's a photograph in the book, and there's a spoon, and the cuff of one of the guys that pant legs. And we thought it you know, has to mean something maybe like spooning or something or was a joke, you know, something to go along with that. A lady who follows us on Instagram, posted a photograph of two ladies and Victorian dresses and the back of them. And they're leaning into each other kind of hugging. But there's a silver spoon tucked into the big bow of each one of their dresses in the back. And she said, so I would assume that the spin and the cost of the two guys as it relates to them being together, because that's what they have represented back in those days. So I did send her on the mission of umbrellas as well, I sent her a private

Anne Marie Cannon:

route. The other thing you've done is you've created an international community. And it's, it's a permeable, it's open, and people are reaching out to you. And they're sharing their information with you. And it's really powerful part of something positive, that you know, a message of love. And when they see it, and they can relate to it. They want to be a part of that type of community and sharing. And as you can read the excitement, and the emotion and what they share. And it has built a beautiful loving community. It really has just a little story about myself and my families. So there's six kids in my family and my daughter comes out to me, and

Hugh Nini:

when did you come up to you?

Anne Marie Cannon:

Probably about 13 years ago, okay, she got engaged four years ago, and my mother was really sick, and my sister because they were going to wait a couple years. And my sister said, I think you need to do it now. So that grandma could be here, my mother lived for the next party in the next trip. Those are two things. And she was pretty not well at that time. But she she was gonna live to go to this wedding. But you know, coming from where I grew up, and how I grew up and what I was told as to the fact that all of my siblings showed up and they were there at the wedding in my wildest dream, I wouldn't have thought that that would happen. And the thing that happened that meant so much to me is the fact that I'm the nominee have to send you the picture. But all of my siblings were there, their kids were there. I mean, they came from other states, and we're not a rich family. But they were all there. And it just this, this feels like that. It just, it meant so much to me, I met him to listen to my daughter. But in the 70s when I was growing up, I could never envision that. And this is part of that movement forward with with it, your book is.

Hugh Nini:

And that's a beautiful story. By the way, thank you for sharing it heartwarming, and what this book is causing to happen to people, you know, sharing stories like this, one of the things that we hope this book will cause to happen. Just Personally, I never suffered a moment of my life, in fear of God, that I was going to go to hell for being gay or anything like that. Absolutely not nothing. The one hesitation I did have is that, you know, I'm 65. So back in the mid 70s, when coming out, and I couldn't imagine what a life with another man looked like I just that didn't was no vision of you know what we want me to model my future on. So I wasn't gay and I wasn't straight. I was living like a monk for about three years until I know that things finally just sort of started to fall into place. So you know, fast forward to today. Men and women, husbands and wives are giving birth to kids every day that are going to grow up to be gay. That's just a fact. And they have nothing to base their hopes and dreams for that child on

Anne Marie Cannon:

until maybe now.

Hugh Nini:

Maybe we'll get our book. And by looking into this past, we'll be able to see a future for their child that Neil and I together again, almost 30 years a lovely marriage. We love each other. We're happy together. This is what I couldn't imagine when I was a teenager. But you know it did happen and it's lasted a long time and Here we are, it's possible. And so you know, parents are getting fed a lot of bad information, unfortunately, and the most of most of the time it comes from religious institutions and religious leaders. So there needs to be something to counter that. And, you know, I think this book may have helped in some way to do that. People will look at, oh, wow, there is love between Q and Neil, and your daughter and her wife. It's the same love that we all feel that we all you know, long for health insurance when we have it.

Anne Marie Cannon:

That's a good way to end. Q and Neil, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoy talking to you.

Hugh Nini:

Thank you so much for having us. We really appreciate you inviting on, been wonderful.

Anne Marie Cannon:

There you have it, CUNY. Me and Neil Treadwell, the book is loving a photographic history of men in the 1850s to 1950s. To find out more about the book and about human Neil, be sure to check out our episode notes. I'd also like to remind you that armchair historians is now available to listen to on YouTube, so be sure to subscribe and like and leave us some comments. Thanks for joining us today and have a great week.