The Androgynous Women of the 1930s, Photographed
Berlin-based photographer Marianne Breslauer traveled Europe photographing queer and androgynous women almost ninety years ago. Her legacy is a glorious series of images embodying feminine modernity, rebellion, and independence. A window into a significant moment in history, the collection stands as a testament to the fight for female equality and captures a 20th century gender ambiguous aesthetic once called the “tomboy.”
Breslauer captured her subjects as they were—strong and elegant. She frequently shot Swiss writer and muse, Annmarie Shwarzenbach, who she described as, “neither a man nor a woman, but an angel, an archangel.” Breslauer’s androgynous ideals manifested themselves in her portraits, which are equally as picturesque as they are powerful, in an era when women were often pigeonholed. As a Jewish woman in Germany, her career as a photographer was cut short in 1938, when her work fell victim to Nazi censorship.
It’s important to ask ourselves why Breslauer’s images are significant in 2017. When we walk down the street wearing whatever the fuck we want, we realize their importance. When our art is not subject to censorship, we realize their importance. In order to maintain our freedom of expression, it’s essential to understand and appreciate the journey of those before us. Browse a handful of Marianne Breslauer’s photographs spanning from 1927 to 1938 in the slideshow above.
Images via Marianne Breslauer
Stay tuned to Milk for more old-school LGBTQIA art from the archives.