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June 26, 2014

Gay Pride in the 1950s: Two Young Men Kissing in a Photo Booth in 1953

More than 60 years ago, a gay couple found the freedom to show affection for each other in the safe confines a photo booth.

Joseph John Bertrund Belanger (right) kisses a man in a photo booth. “PGE exhibition, Hastings Park.” Vancouver, Circa 1953. Photo: ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries

By today’s standards, this photo shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but in 1953, the year it was taken, this photo would have been reason enough for law enforcement to harass and arrest these men.

TIME reports that the photo was once owned by Joseph John Bertrund Belanger, who is featured on the right-hand side of the picture. Belanger was born in Edmonton, Canada in 1925, and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1944.

Joseph John Bertrund Belanger (right) shares a tender moment with a man in a photo booth. “PGE exhibition, Hastings Park.” Vancouver, Circa 1953. Photo: ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at USC Libraries.

When he was in his 20s, Belanger moved to California. In the early 1950s, he was one of the original members of the Mattachine Society, one of the first LGBT organizations in the country.

In addition to that, Belanger was the Los Angeles coordinator of the Eulenspiegel Society, oldest and largest BDSM education and support group in the United States, in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he was involved with the San Francisco chapter of the Stonewall Gay Democratic Club, as well as Project Inform and the Quarantine Fighter’s Group.

Throughout his lifetime, Belanger was a devoted collector of historical LGBT artifacts and materials. These two photographs of him are now part of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries, the largest repository of LGBT materials in the world, along with several of Belanger’s letters, notebooks, and audio recordings.

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