Libido: Reviews: Peek
Peek — Photographs from the Kinsey Institute

By Marianna Beck

Imagine one of the world’s 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 KI’s 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.

Peek — Photographs from the Kinsey Institute with essays by Carol Squiers, Jennifer Yamashiro et al. (Arena Editions, Santa Fe, NM 2000. ISBN 1-892041-35-9. 160 pages, hardcover, $60)

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