Body Language

The Queer Staged Photographs of George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa

Body Language is the first in-depth study of the extraordinary interplay between George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa (Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret Hoening French). Nick Mauss and Angela Miller offer timely readings of how their practices of staging, collaboration, and psychological enactment through the body arced across the boundaries of art and life, private and public worlds, anticipating contemporary social media. Using the camera not to capture, but to actively perform, they renounced photography’s conventional role as mirror of the real, energizing forms of world-making via a new social framing of the self.


Body Language retrieves a visual archive of desire from the 1930s and 1940s that exceeds any simple binary of gay/straight, male/female, or individual/collective. Photographs by George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa encompass lavish pleasures and possibilities that can only be understood as ‘queer’—as beautifully non-normative and knowingly performative. Nick Mauss and Angela Miller dedicate their book to a ‘future history of art.’ One can only hope that an art history of the future learns to be as loving and attentive to the queer visual past as Mauss and Miller. If it does, Body Language will be part of the reason why.”
—Richard Meyer, author of Master of the Two Left Feet: Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered

“This is an important work of new scholarship focused on the interwoven relationships and collaborative lives and works of George Platt Lynes and PaJaMa. Collaboration and coauthoring strategies have become even more central to many contemporary practices in staged photography, and so as we contend with both the precedents and limitations of generations past, Body Language provides a crucial historic reference point for a new, expansive world built by queer image-makers.”
—Paul Mpagi Sepuya, artist

“With their attentive readings that span photographs, intimate relationships, and archival materials, Mauss and Miller furnish fresh understandings of mid-twentieth-century collective artistic practices. Together they brilliantly chart the course for a new, collaborative, and queer art history—one that is as delightful as it is rigorous.”—Julia Bryan-Wilson, author of Louise Nevelson’s Sculpture: Drag, Color, Join, Face

About the authors

Nick Mauss is an artist whose recent exhibitions include Transmissions at the Whitney Museum and Intricate Others at Museu Serralves.

Angela Miller is professor of art history and archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She has published widely on 19th- and 20th-century American arts and culture. She is author of the prize-winning The Empire of the Eye.

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