WATCH: Antique photos chronicle gay male relationships from over 100 years ago in new documentary

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Long resigned to living our lives in secret, behind closed doors, the extent of LGBTQ+ history that is untold and undocumented is unfathomable.

But thanks to projects like the documentary 100 Years Of Men In Love: The Accidental Collection, some of those stories are coming to light, photograph by photograph.

Inspired by a book of the same name, 100 Years Of Men In Love gives audiences a closer look at photography archives of married couple Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, a selection of found portraits of men from the 1850s to the 1950s.

During that time, male partnerships were often deemed illegal, so the images of (assumed) gay men together—loving, laughing, cuddling, smiling—feels especially radical.

Nini and Treadwell’s collection was deemed “accidental” because they never really thought they were collecting anything. Over the years, they simply began holding onto any image the could find of men showing affecting for one another.

With each visit to an antique shop or a flea market, their collection grew and grew, and the couple eventually realized they needed to share it with the world.

Filmmaker David Millbern tells Nini and Treadwell’s story—as well as those of hundreds of gay couples that came before them—in his hour-long documentary. Speaking with AwardsDaily, he remarks that the film is more than just a montage: “We actually go into each picture, we analyze it, we escape into it.”

Later in the conversation, Millbern elaborates on why these photos—some of which are over 150 years old—matter now, and why the seem to connect so deeply with audiences:

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