As long as we’re all watching black and white videos of strangers kissing, (and now their X-rated parodies), why don’t we take a stroll down memory lane to the very first filmed kiss, shot by groundbreaking English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, sometime between 1872 and 1885. The kiss was (gasp) between two women, but lest your prurient interests get the better of you, remember that Victorian culture didn’t really “get” lesbianism, and the nudity was to aid in Muybridge’s dedicated study of motion. From the Muybridge online archives:
While the Victorians were extremely sexually prudish by modern standards and commonly considered male homosexuality a serious threat to their society they believed women had little or no sex drive. Therefore the possibility of lesbianism was commonly ignored.
Because of Victorian sexual taboos Muybridge was not able to photograph men and women naked together and was only able to publish images of naked men together engaging in sports or work. Because he was free to show women naked together he used female models when he wanted to show two people engaging in ordinary activities. In many plates he had one of the women assume a typically male role and these are the plates which today we tend to perceive as homo-erotic.
You can see photos from the series below, as well as Muybridge’s “movie,” The Kiss. Of course, this was well before the invention of the motion picture camera—he simply set up a rig of rapidly firing cameras in sequence.
Fun fact: Muybridge actually shot and killed his wife’s lover, a man called Major Harry Larkyns, upon learning that he may have fathered their seven-month-old son. Muybridge actually tracked the guy down and said, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” right before shooting him, point blank. Larkyns died that night, and Muybridge was arrested. He pleaded insanity on account of a 12 year old head head injury. While the jury dismissed the insanity plea, they actually acquitted him for justifiable homicide. Muybridge and his wife divorced, she died, the son was sent to an orphanage, and though Muybridge paid the boy’s childhood expenses, he did not maintain contact.
So to review: Shooting people who sleep with your wife—ok. Women and men being filmed together—very not ok. That’s those wacky Victorians for you!