Jul 28, 2014

The Mysterious Cabinet Photo of Jasper Redfern

I found this photo on the internet.  An extremely muscular man, with a modern bodybuilder's physique, with his hands behind his back.  The caption said "Jasper Redfern...Sheffield."  Obviously the photographer.

Who was this Jasper Redfern who was taking photos of naked men at the turn of the last century?  Was he gay?

According to Who's Who of Victorian Cinema, Jasper Redfern (1872-1928) was a photographer and exhibitor for Lumière Cinématographe, an early film producer.

In 1899 he began to photograph sports matches, including Sheffield's football games, and in 1900 he took a tour of North Africa, making motion picture travelogues along the way.

North Africa seems promising.  The "Lure of the Mediterranean" was very strong.  Gay men from Andre Gide to William Burroughs traveled there in search of homoerotic freedom.

Upon his return, Redfern became a full-time moviemaker, directing films like Uncle Podger's Mishaps and Kick Me, I'm Bill Bailey.  He opened the Jasper Redfern Palace by the Sea at Westcliffe, which offered offered a variety of Vaudeville acts in addition to film.

Later he devoted himself to medical research, experimenting with the use of X-Rays to cure cancer.  Ironically, he died of cancer caused by over-exposure to X-Rays.

No mention of a wife and kids, but he may have had some.

So why the muscleman?

It's a cabinet photo from the 1880s, when Redfern was still a teenager, still thinking about his life's work.

Often the photos were sold to painters as a cheap alternative to hiring models.  Maybe Redfern sold it to a student at the Sheffield Institute of the Arts.

Or maybe he kept it, as a model for his own destiny.

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