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Neil Edwards Photography Collection
Coll2007-003  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Index of Models Photographed or Distributed by Neil Edwards

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Neil Edwards photography collection
    Dates: circa 1950-circa 1970
    Bulk Dates: 1964-1969
    Collection number: Coll2007-003
    Creator: Edwards, Neil, 1939-2003
    Collection Size: 12 ring-binder boxers + 12 archives boxes + 1 oversize box (5.3 linear feet).
    Repository: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
    Los Angeles, California 90007
    Abstract: 474 photographic prints and 3910 slides created circa 1964-1969 by male physique photographer Neil Edwards, as well as 420 photographs and 909 slides collected by Edwards and created circa 1950-1970 by Athletic Model Guild, Bruce of Los Angeles, Calafran Enterprises, Champion Studios, Jay Mitchell, and Times Square Studio, and others. The collection also includes Edwards' business records, including model releases and notes on models, miscellaneous physique publications, 1958-1968, and erotic drawings and writings.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

    Publication Rights

    Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives as the physical owner and copyright holder.

    Preferred Citation

    Neil Edwards photography collection, Coll2007-003, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Scott Wachtler.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Robert Graves, September 2005-December 2006. Finding aid edited by Michael Palmer, March 2007.
    Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Biography

    Neil Edwards was born George Elliot McNeil on February 11, 1939, to George lliot McNeil and Elizabeth McKinney, and was raised in Virginia. His parents also had a daughter, whose name is not known. His mother eventually divorced her husband, who was said to have "tormented" her and their children. As an adult, the younger George Elliot McNeil legally changed his name to Neil Edwards to avoid any connection with his father's name. Neil adored his mother, who went on to marry another man, Wilbur Peck.
    Little is known of Neil's formative years. After leaving Virginia, he moved to New York City and took a few classes in computers and arts at the City College of New York. During this period he also worked as a set designer on Broadway summer stock productions, where he met prominent entertainers such as Marlene Dietrich, Carol Channing, and Barbra Streisand.
    Along with contemporaries such as Bob Mizer's Athletic Model Guild, Walter Kundzicz's Champion Studios, and more independent photographers such as David of Cleveland, Bruce of Los Angeles, Edwards played a part in creating the mid-twentieth century phenomenon known as physique photography. Intended to skirt and evade censors of the time, physique photography was designed to produce erotic photographs of male and female models for consumers who could not obtain such materials from any other source. Physique photographers utilized any loophole they could find to produce, release, and distribute their product. Early models were photographed with skimpy posing straps, and photographs, catalogs and magazines of nude or near-nude models were released with editorial commentary suggesting that the photos were produced to satisfy the interests of naturists, fans of sport and bodybuilding, or budding human form artists.
    Edwards' work as a physique photographer appears to have fallen between the years of 1964 and 1969, when he lived in Philadelphia: the earliest model release in the collection is dated March 1964, the latest January 1969. Mailings for his studio and model releases from this period also give a studio address in New York City, so it is believed he split his time between the two cities. It is not known how Edwards came to be a physique photographer. His associate, Scott Wachtler, believes that photography was a hobby for Edwards and that he entered the field of physique photography in the belief that he could do a better job than those currently in the field.
    At the height of his photographic productivity, Edwards' work appeared in the pages of and on the covers of several male fitness magazines, including The Young Physique and Muscleboy, some of which are represented in this collection. Edwards also is known to have to produced one periodical showcasing his work exclusively, The Edwardians, of which three or four issues were published, and possibly one other magazine, Blueboy (long preceding the better-known, gay erotic photography magazine of the same name), which featured a male model posed in the same fashion as John Singer Sargent's Blueboy painting.
    Wachtler does not believe that Edwards was a standard portrait photographer during his time as a physique photographer. However, his collection contains several examples of portrait and other photography, and he may have worked on a commission basis during this time, taking standard photographs for friends or paying clients.
    As with other photographers of the day, Edwards' work started out tame, with models wearing posing straps and rarely touching themselves, and progressed to more obviously erotic work in later years, with models fully nude, sometimes shown touching themselves and on some occasions posed with other male models in tame but sexually suggestive situations.
    Eventually, Edwards was targeted by the Philadelphia District Attorney, Arlen Specter, for his physique photography work. Edwards' home was raided by police, who confiscated all his photographic equipment, most of his film, and his mail-order lists. Edwards was not arrested, nor was he ever charged for a crime. However, he petitioned for over a year for the return of his equipment. At one point, he was told the equipment had been lost, and eventually he was told that the raid never took place. This loss ruined Edwards financially, forcing him to go on public welfare, and depressed him emotionally, eventually resulting in a nervous breakdown that saw him committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital for a short time. It is unknown precisely when this raid occurred; however, Edwards' photographic output ceased abruptly in 1969.
    Edwards never took up professional photography again, and instead took a job with American Airlines, eventually developing the company's SABRE computer reservation system. When American asked Edwards to move to Texas, he refused and was bought out of his contract. Edwards used the money to move to Tampa, Florida, where he opened a restaurant, Neil's, which was popular with locals, but did not make enough money to sustain itself and ended in bankruptcy. Edwards then went to work as an art critic for a local classical music radio station. It was there that he developed a computer software program, Music Director, that automatically scheduled classical music for radio stations all over the country. In 1989, he created the company Broadcast Data Consultants, the firm where he met Wachtler.
    Edwards' sister died in the mid 1990s of lung disease, and his mother and stepfather died in the late 1990s. Edwards himself died in Clearwater, Florida, on December 16, 2003, of the hereditary lung condition, pulmonary fibrosis, which may also have been the cause of his sister's death.
    Source: Scott Wachtler

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection consists of the 474 photographic prints and 3910 slides created by male physique photographer Neil Edwards, as well as materials created by Edwards in the course of his work, and photographs and magazines he collected throughout his life. In addition to physique photographs, the collection contains slide images of vacations and other trips taken by Edwards. The materials pertaining to Edwards' photography business include model and employment releases, notes by Edwards concerning his models, and brochures and catalogs for Edwards' studio. Among the other studios and well-known photographers whose images (420 photographs and 906 slides) Edwards collected are Athletic Model Guild, Bruce of Los Angeles, Champion Studios, Calafran Enterprises, Jay Mitchell, and Times Square Studio; the identifiable nude models include Rudolf Nureyev, Burt Lancaster, Ray Fuller, and Jim Stryker. Printed materials in the collection include bound volumes of The Young Physique (1958-1966), Demi-Gods (1961-1963), and Muscleboy (1963-1966); unbound issues of magazines and other publications; erotic drawings; and gay erotic short stories.

    Arrangement

    Series 1. Photographic works by Neil Edwards. Series 2. Photographic works by others. Series 3. Printed matter.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Edwards, Neil, 1939-2003
    Athletic Model Guild
    Bruce of Los Angeles
    Calafran Enterprises
    Champion Studios
    Conrad
    Jay Mitchell
    Star Fire Studios
    Times Square Studio
    Gay erotic literature
    Gay erotic photography
    Photographers--United States
    Photography of men
    Photography of the nude

    Index of Models Photographed or Distributed by Neil Edwards

    Adams, Ted
    Alexander
    Allen, David
    Anderson, Steve
    Antoine, Jacques
    Arnold, Hank
    Baillard, Rupe
    Baker, Bill
    Barnes, Chip
    Basco, Tony
    Bouchard, Andre
    Bucholz, Dirk
    Byers, John
    Carlton, John
    Carroll, Larry
    Castor, Eric
    Chamberlain, Peter
    Cokos, Alex
    Collins, Rick
    D'Amboise, Gregg
    Devereux, Rick
    Dougherty, Rich
    Douglas, Bill
    Estes, Jimmy
    Evans, Brett
    Falkenburg, Lance
    Farrell, Trate
    Fredericks, Karl
    Gavin, Chuck,
    Gelder, Hans
    Hamilton, Steve
    Hammel, Chuck
    Harding, Ken
    Harrigan, Tim
    Hastings, Bill
    Idol, Brian
    Jackson, Brad
    Jefferson, Jim
    Jensen, Peter
    Jordan, Trey
    Keeler, Ronnie
    Kelly, Jack
    Kirby, Don
    Koenig, Walt
    Larson, Ernie
    Little Joe
    Lloyd, Joseph
    Lunstead, Tom
    Marshall, Gary
    Martin, Peter
    Mason, Alan
    McCauley, Don
    McDonald, Bruce
    Miller, Ed
    Mitchell, Jay
    Müller, Franz
    O'Neil, Tony
    O'Shea, Tim
    Payne, Bill
    Peterson, Alan
    Peterson, Jerry
    Pettit, Keith
    Powell, Wayne
    Powers, Drake
    Price, Ernie
    Primavera, Dennis
    Primavera, Tony
    Randall, Ed
    Richardson, Mike
    Roberts, Barry
    Rodriguez, Manuel
    Rogers, Ian
    Rogers, Johnny
    Sanford, David
    Scali, Vince
    Shephard, Phil
    Stevens, Ricky
    Stewart, Marty
    Sullivan, Jerry
    Swanson, Ted
    Tallchief, Joe
    Talley, Mat
    Todd, Charles
    Weiss, Kurt
    Whyte, Lee
    Williams, Dennis
    Williams, Ronnie