Brooklyn Boys

by Tony Pinizzotto

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 2, 2013

Brooklyn Boys

Robert Loncar and James Kempster adore the male nude form. They began a relentless quest to uncover the history behind one of the country's most renowned photographers, Danny Fitzgerald, a.k.a. Studio "Les Demi Dieux" (The Demi Gods). With their new book "Brooklyn Boys," (Danny Fitzgerald & Les Demi Dieux) BigKugels Photographic unearths an unchartered treasure trove of photographic art, all taken by one man, while showcasing the work of an artist who could arguably be called one of the greatest gay male photographers of the 20th Century.

The challenge was a difficult one. Fitzgerald used numerous addresses while doing his work, none of them his home address. That chase led them to Richard Bennett. Bennett, a male model himself, is the catalyst and muse behind one of the finest collections of vintage male nude photography curated in the past forty years. Bennett was Fitzgerald's lover from 1960 until Fitzgerald's death in 2000.

The years were 1958-1968, a time when any photographer, even a homosexual one, could be severely fined and thrown in jail for photographing and printing images of male nudes. Fitzgerald's work, artistic photographs of boys and men from what was then known as "South Brooklyn," is highly influenced by his time spent in arenas like the Manhattan nightlife; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the Tuesday Night movie at the East Side's newsreel house-turned-art house, the Trans-Lux Theatre.

Fitzgerald found his models, first, in the outlying gymnasiums where he worked out, and had personal fitness instructors as friends. Along with the photographs in "Brooklyn Boys" Loncar and Kempster share Fitzgerald's touching and sensitive journal entries about his thoughts and desires. Fitzgerald met Richard Bennett in 1960 and the two became fast friends. Bennett modeled for Fitzgerald, and after establishing what he explained to others as friendship "in the Greek sense of the word...", Bennett aided Fitzgerald in procuring other male models. Richard modeled for Danny in one of any given number of their favorite locales; a Jersey beach, a swimming hole, the secluded forest, et. al., while continually complimenting young male onlookers on what good looks they sported. They then asked the other guys to "join in."

"The years were 1958-1968: during a time when any photographer, even a homosexual one, could be severely fined and thrown in jail for photographing and printing images of male nudes."

Upon Fitzgerald's death in 2000 his work was put away and not, until now, ever shared with, or seen by, the world. Much of Les Demi Dieux's images were never received, mainly, because his portraits cannot easily be pigeon-holed into the traditional vintage "Beefcake" category. Although some of Danny's images were published in 1960s magazines like "Demi Gods," "Young Physique" and "Muscles A Go-Go," publishers found themselves pleading with Fitzgerald to meet his deadlines and provide the work he promised. Fitzgerald's work quickly declined due to his feeling of non-acceptance and lack of conformity with the "Beefcake" market.

The book's photos are stunning and timeless. There is a universality represented by the figures of a blossoming 1960s Brooklyn youth. Fitzgerald's models purposely ignore the restrictions of the day, truly representing their beauty with their nude male postures. Fitzgerald takes his subjects to the highest plain of artistic expression, while tending to the male nude forms with tenderness and the delicate attention that they demand. "Brooklyn Boys" is a must-have for those who appreciate the history and beauty of vintage homo-suggestive photographic art.

"Brooklyn Boys" (Danny Fitzgerald & Les Demi Dieux)

Hardcover -160 pages