As a successful American fashion and portrait photographer, Lynes, his greatest work is in homoerotic dance images and male nudes. He was born in Orange, New Jersey in 1907.
He had his first solo exhibition at the Leggett Gallery in 1932, followed by a two-man exhibition at Julien Levy with the well-known photographer Walker Evans. By 1933, Lynes was a central figure in the New York photography world. He quickly became known for his highly stylized images characterized by expressionistic lighting, surrealistic props, and suggestive settings.
Because of censorship during the Second World War, Lynes he restricted the circulation of his work to friends and admirers. By 1945 his success, and interest, in portrait and fashion work began to fade--along with his relationship with Westcott and Wheeler. Lynes moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to head Vogue's Hollywood office, but by 1948 financial pressure forced him to return to New York. Unfortunately, his earlier success was difficult to reclaim, and by late 1951 his failure to pay taxes led the government to close his studio and auction off his cameras.
Lynes' later photographs, particularly his nudes, are marked by a significant change of style. He abandoned the highly staged tableaux of his earlier nudes in favor of a straightforward, even minimalist, aesthetic. Featuring few if any props, these later images are simple and honest portraits of naked men. In 1949, Lynes began a personal and professional friendship with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, who, having published his controversial book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male the previous year, was beginning his research on homosexuality and gay male erotica. Although buying and selling nude male photographs was illegal at the time, Kinsey eventually managed to purchase over six hundred of Lynes' prints along with several hundred negatives for his new archive.
After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1954, Lynes destroyed many of his negatives and prints, including his fashion photography, as well as his nudes. Although Lynes seemed to fear how his images might be received, surely he would be pleased to know that many of his works have not only survived, but continue to find new audience.