Celebrating Charles Guyette

Latex clothing, leather accessories, even high-heeled shoes were certainly not part of mainstream couture back in pre-60’s culture. And while we have all heard names like Klaw, Burtman, and Page in context with what was considered alternative fashion modeling and picture taking, there are still plenty more men and women who paved the way for the Jean Paul Gaultier’s, the Alexandar McQueen’s, and even those iconic images of Hatstand, Table, and Chair we made mention of here.

In his new book, Charles Guyette: Godfather of American Fetish Art, Richard Pérez Seves presents the story of a man we all should know better.

Working with side show acts, specifically involving women boxers and wrestlers (a particular ‘interest’ Guyette would pursue all through his life and in his pictures) he’d come to sell theatrical supplies at various New York City locations. Using a slew of alias post his arrest Guyette stayed ‘underground’ for the most part continuing his work and influencing the people history books, gallery shows and movies have made popular.

What’s most fascinating about Guyette, unlike Klaw or Bunny Yeager, is that he wasn’t really a photographer. He produced and sold “deviant” art material, made and sold costumes (at one time he was called the “G-string King”) and styled fetish clothing models of the day with wardrobe choices and props. He also amassed a bunch of photographs he would come to sell to publications of the day, to bolster the collections of private benefactors and pulp up the wares of other infamous photographers.

As Perez told us directly: Fetish art (although the word “fetish” was not used in those days as that term came into fashion in a non-clinical way in the 1970s) was about testing the boundaries of freedom. Some of it had to do with unconventional sexual expression … but more of it had to do with fashion because of how identity and gender is connected to what we wear.

Seves presents a scrumptious collection of very fashionable (and sexy) black-and-white Guyette photos (they make up most of the book) and also a well-researched bio of his subject.

You can order Charles Guyette: Godfather of American Fetish Art here.