It’s easy to forget, while looking at these joyful pictures, that they were made during and just after a major world war. Sometimes, however, a moody sobriety did infiltrate the work. Margaret French, George Tooker and Jared French, Nantucket (ca. 1946), for example, features Margaret lying in a white garment at the top of a staircase that leads down to the ocean. One man sits on the stairs, while the other looks off toward the distance. The composition conveys disconnect—three characters in their own worlds in the face of the gray expanse of sky and sea.
Their bohemian attitudes, no doubt,helped protect the sexually liberated trio and their friends from significant danger and societal judgment. Around the country, doctors were still lobotomizing homosexual patients in hopes of turning them straight. Homosexuality itself was criminalized. Yet the PaJaMa trio hardly squandered their privilege. Their photographs capture a safe space of their own making: a tight-knit community of creative personalities in a place where they could be fully themselves—or invent new selves altogether.