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May 28 2024
George Platt Lynes: A Gay Master Unveiled — A Review Of Sam Shahid's HIDDEN MASTER Comments (0)

Hidden-master-poster-george-platt-lynes-gay(Images via A Precious Few LLC)

Sam Shahid's documentary Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynesin theaters and available digitally May 31 — is an exhaustive, stylish examination of one of the 20th century's finest — and most overlooked — photographers, a gay creator who was out and something more than proud decades before Stonewall.

The film profiles Lynes from his time as a privileged New Jersey teen with aspirations of being one of the drivers of his era's culture to his position in Gertrude Stein's circle to his heady success as a fashion photographer and, finally, to his ignominious end, a gay male version of The House of Mirth.

What distinguishes Lynes's life and career, things that make his story so relevant, is his fearless creation of his self. He decided he wanted to be a fabulous, louche, elitist society figure with an indiscreet and unconventional sex life, and he became that. He decided, when writing didn't pan out, that he wanted to be a photographer at the top of his game, so he taught himself the craft and was soon Vogue's top man.

Most importantly, Lynes all but originated the art of the male nude, drawing inspiration from Surrealist artists, and making use of a large-format camera and innovative lighting techniques, which led to startlingly luminous and unapologetically erotic output, most of which was unseen until after his death. The images are breathtaking to this day.

He was also a gay artist at a time when his work could have led him to prison, but thanks to his position in the world, he was able to photograph every beautiful young man and interesting A-lister who crossed his path, and to keep the dangerous stuff hidden from prying eyes while he tore through the world.

Hidden-master-george-platt-lynes-gay-GPL_HiddenMaster_Still-09Shahid assembled a monumental list of interviewees, every one of whom offers generous insights into who Lynes was — the good, the bad and the problematic (ugly is not a word that Lynes would have tolerated) — including the elusive artist's nephew, surviving (at the time of filming) lovers/collaborators like Jensen Yow and Bernard Perlin, fellow photographic geniuses like Bruce Weber and Duane Michals, and experts like Jerry Rosco, Vince Aletti and Peter Halpert.

Most thrillingly to me, someone who went in well aware of Lynes (but who nonetheless learned a lot), the doc includes a peek at the archives of the late collector Fred Koch, who purchased all of Lynes's belongings decades after his death — then never so much as looked at them — as well as such treasures as sexually intimate images of Lynes and the love of his life Monroe Wheeler and the only known moving images of Lynes.

It's a high-drama cautionary tale as fresh as yesterday featuring images that also look current, and yet Lynes's heyday was 80 years ago — and he died in 1955.

Don't miss this invaluable contribution to documenting gay history and photographic history, one that makes a strong argument on behalf of Lynes's legacy being reassessed by major institutions and the public at large.