By Marianna Beck
Imagine one of the worlds foremost institutions of sex research harboring a vast photo collection for the last half-century and not making it available to the public until now. Peek, which reproduces 125 images from the over 75,000 photos housed at the Kinsey Institute, is a delectable and fascinating glimpse into our sexual heritage. It is a mirror of 20th-century sexuality reflecting enormous diversity from humorous amateur attempts to more professional nude studies like those of George Platt Lynes, Wilhelm von Gloeden, and others. Most intriguing is that these sex-positive, celebratory photos were produced at the same time public attitudes condemned any visual depictions or discussion of sexuality.
Although 125 images may seem like a mere sliver of the KIs archives, Peek provides a wonderfully rich array of arresting images and reminds us that the urge to document sex whether straight, gay, or bi has never been successfully repressed no matter how sex-phobic the culture. The excellent essays accompanying the images by former Kinsey Institute curator Jennifer Yamashiro, writer Carol Squiers and others make Peek an intensely illuminating resource.