New Zealand's gay culture grew rapidly during the middle decades of the twentieth century. A book titled Southern Men - a play on the iconic 'southern man' of the rugged South Island - showcases three collections of private snapshots that show South Islanders at home and at war, spending time at the beach and showing off their physiques. Two of these topics - gay men and war, and the appeal of the mid-century physical culture movement - proved difficult to research when I put together Mates & Lovers in 2008, but these new collections came to light since, and have helped to fill in the gaps.
The book's design is inspired by the 1950s physique magazines - Physique Pictorial and the rest - and its 215 images document men's lives, travels, friendships and leisure in the decades leading up to gay liberation. Excerpts from letters and diaries accompany the pictures and tell of a Canterbury man's passionate love affair on active duty in New Caledonia, nude sunbathing, gossip, long-term friendships and relationships, and a community in the making.