Manly Affections: The Photographs of Robert Gant 1885-1915
What if New Zealand's male settlers were not all as stoic and unemotional as we tend to assume? What if homoeroticism existed alongside - or even at the heart of - male society? What if the colonial social pattern actively facilitated intimate and sexual relationships between Pakeha men?
Manly Affections doesn't provide any clear answers, but it does explore the questions. It focuses on the life and photography of Robert Gant, who left us some 450 late nineteenth and early twentieth century images. Part biography, part cultural history, part visual analysis and part provocative speculation, this book project extends the analysis begun in Chapter One of Mates & Lovers. Along the way, I place homoeroticism within a broader discussion of masculinity and community life, and I discuss locally-circulating representations in their global context. The book will include approximately 150 images. While most histories of same-sex desire and intimacy explore urban lives, this project looks at small towns and rural locales: Gant spent much of his time in the Wairarapa settlements of Masterton and Greytown. In Gant's photographs, life on farms and in homesteads mingles with classicism, light bondage, romantic friendship and theatrical dress-ups. Gant and his enigmatic friends wove together Pakeha settler masculinity, emotion and eroticism in surprising and fascinating ways.