Latent: A hidden history


Vale, S. 2017. Latent: A hidden history.
CreatorsVale, S.

Latent: A hidden history has been produced to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which began the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality and an advancement in human rights. The project re-imagines photographs taken from the South-East Archive of Seaside Photography (SEAS) and was developed to communicate and question the absence of gay male history within archival records. This is pertinent when examining the SEAS archive, as coastal towns are democratic spaces that bring together people from varied social backgrounds, transcending barriers and creating archives that are rich in material. Yet the gay male history is absent, missing from these archival records due to legislation (and its related prejudice and fear) placed on gay men prior to 1967. Responding to this absence, the work has been made by obsessively scouring archival images, longing to form a historical cultural past that is omitted.

Presented as two related sets of works: The first set is produced from cropping small sections, from a larger photograph, re-focusing the viewers’ attention onto part a scene that might be overlooked in its original context. This queering of the archive allows us to see fleeting moments that were unintentionally recorded, taken involuntarily with alternate purposes. Importantly, these resulting pictures are not retouched or edited, but present real events and situations not necessarily meant to be documented. These infinitesimal details are deliberately beyond focus, vague or obscured; the unrecognisable figures standing in for an imagined past that is unobtainable. The second set visualises the absent history, through the presentation of the original archive images with a physical hole cut, where the queered fragment (from the first set) has been removed.

The work is timely, acting as a tribute to the many lives and loves lived in secret. But also serves as a contemporary call to arms, inviting people to record LGBTQ histories, before they vanish, so that in the future, narratives do not need to be imagined and can be reflected upon and held up as real testimonies and experiences.

KeywordsPhotography; Archives; Queer; Gay; Practice based research; Arts; Sexuality
Official URL
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print01 Aug 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Jan 2021
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