MEL ROBERTS’ PRIVATE COLLECTION AT HOMOBILIA
April 26, 2006 Entertainment News(PRLEAP.COM) San Francisco, CA – Approaching his 83rd Birthday, renowned male physique photographer Mel Roberts is still making news. His private collection of vintage 5” x 5” color prints are being offered to collectors and physique photography fans for the first time in almost three decades, exclusively at Homobilia.com.
First published in Young Physique magazine in 1963, Roberts took an estimated 50,000 photographs of nearly 200 male models: all of them friends— many of them lovers. They weren’t the perfectly proportioned bodybuilders common in the physique magazines of the time. Roberts’ sun-tanned guys were posed casually by the pool, or against the backdrop of Southern California’s stunning natural environment. In 2003, The New Yorker described his “witty Technicolor pictures” as “capturing “all the giddy delights of being young during summertime, [but] it’s not all high camp.”
Nor was it all fun and games. In the 60s and 70s, the LAPD routinely harassed male physique photographers. Under the false charge that Roberts was photographing underage models, they raided his home and studio in 1977, and again 18 months later. They confiscated his cameras, negatives, letters and mailing list, putting him out of business. “We stood in the driveway in handcuffs from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM as they loaded everything into a truck. I couldn’t even return the money my customers had sent me because I didn’t have their addresses.” The LAPD refused to return his property for over a year, even though no charges were filed.
But this pointless harassment took its toll, and besides, times were changing. The California Dream that Roberts’ work epitomized for many gay men was just a memory. His physique photographs were considered “too tame” to be published in the new porn magazines. The AIDS epidemic was spreading. His friends started dying. He put down his camera for good. But his story wasn’t over.
Over the past few years, Roberts’ work has found a new, appreciative audience through magazines from The Advocate to XY. His photography is now represented in galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Hollywood and Palm Springs. Private collectors around the world have sought his new, brilliantly colored, large-format prints. One of the most avid, Sir Elton John, acquired almost sixty of his images for his personal collection.
Barry Harrison, one of the partners in Homobilia, explains their enduring appeal: “A sense of sexual adventure permeates Roberts’ work, which comes across as a photographic strip-tease. It captures a pre-AIDS era, when a guy could hitch a ride to LA, go to a party, pass a few joints, take of his clothes and have sex, just because he felt like it.”
Mel Roberts is available for comments and interviews. His vintage prints of California boys are available in very limited quantities, at Homobilia.com.
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