|Peter Weiermair Wilhelm Plüschow|
August 18, 1852 - January 3, 1930
Peter Weiermair Wilhelm Plüschow was born at Wismar, northern Germany. He was the oldest of seven children of Eduard Carl Plüschow, a high-ranking civil servant and illgitimate son of a previous local ruler, the Gran Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Through his mother Wilhelm was first cousin to the slightly younger Baron Wilhelm von Glœden, later to be his photographic colleague in Italy. Plüschow childhood appears to have been affluent and uneventful.
In the early 1870s , Plüschow moved to Italy, preceding Glœden's arrival by some years. With little financial support from his family, he worked at first as a wine dealer in Rome. By the beginning of the 1890s, however, he was operating a photographic studio in the Mergellina district of Naples at Posillipo no. 55. Plüschow's early work in Naples was the stock-in-trade of studio photographers of the time: formal group portraits and occasional pieces of photo-journalism at public ceremonies.
He also started to shot boys nudes, in fact in 1983 the editor of The Studio, a boy-love-friendly London art magazine, attempted to identify the author (probably Glœden) of a charming photograph of two pre-adolescent boys: "... it is possibly one of those studies from nature by Plutchow [sic], of Rome, whose admirable series is well known to all interested in this subject, for their excellence and artistic composition."
This period probably marks the latest point in his activity in Naples. Glœden, who settled in the then almost unknown village of Taormina, Sicily, may have visited Plüschow, but there is no evidence that he learned photography from his older cousin: Glœden seems to have trained with local photographers in Taormina.
He finally he settled in Rome, where he changed his given name to Guglielmo (Italian for Wilhelm) and started to make a living with his pictures - landscapes, women's nudes, and also boys and men's nudes. His work is first brought to attention by gaining international recognition under the auspices of the London Royal Photographic Society's annual show in 1893. Local commercial guide-books show him operating a studio by 1901 at Via Sardegna no. 34, and by 1903 at the more fashionable Corso Umberto I no. 333, where he is recorded through 1907.
Plüschow's work gained widespread attention through his regular appearances in art photography magazines, popularized ethnological works, and forums of the emerging homosexual liberation movement. Initially he collaborated with his cousin von Glœden, who was living in Taormina, Sicily, often sharing models and props, thus making attribution difficult when researching their early careers.
The English homosexual author John Addington Symonds wrote to several friends recommending Plüschow's work. On January 2, 1892 he thanked Charles Kains-Jackson for returning some studies by the photographer: "... Plüschow if you choose to write him will be glad to furnish you with a selection. The model you seem to have liked best is a Roman lad called Luigi. You might ask for Studies of Luigi, Filippo, Cazzitello, Edoardo. These are some of his best models."
On April 8 he wrote to another gay author, Charles Edward Sayle: "If you care for extremely artistic studies from the nude, done mostly in the open air, go & see my friend G. Plüschow 34 Via (Sardegna). He has made an immense collection which he will be delighted to show you."
Plüschow worked also with another photographer, Vincenzo Galdi, producing a large number of erotic photographs, which were popular in Germany, England, and America. The images they produced are considered to be a landmark, for the beginning of the homosexual photograph. Pluschow also photographed images of young, somewhat, androgynous looking girls. His pictures are more erotic than the ones shot by Baron von Glœden.
The document of Plütschow's sentence in 1907 for having sex with a 12 years old boy named Ernani Marinelli
Document kindly sent by Mr. Enrico Oliari
Plüschow began to publish his photographs in the late 1890s, a few years after Glœden. In 1896-1897 Plüschow toured Tunisia, Egypt, and Greece; several studies of draped youths in the ruins of Athens, as well as pictures of nude boys, were published in England by Robert H. Hobart Cust, beginning that year. Cust described Glœden and Plüschow as "amaong the most celebrated makers of photograms in the world", though noting that, compared to Glœden's pictures, "Signor Plüschow's equally admirable work is hardly known here at all, or, if known, not attributed to the right artist."
In 1910 he published a recent series of photographs in another genre: landscapes and views of ancient and medieval buildings in the countryside around Rome. This proved to be Plüschow's last photographic commission. Judging from the publishe work, Plüschow's style and repertory of subjects developed early and changed little during his twenty-year period of maximum activity as a photographer (circa 1890-1910).
Along with Plüschow's growing reputation as a photographer came notoriety of another kind. Following the implication of the German munitions tycoon Baron Alfred Krupp in a sexual scandal involving youths on Capri in 1902, a crackdown in Rome led to the arrest of Plüschow, his assistants and the photographer Vincenzo Galdi. The incident, recorded around 1904 by "Xavier Mayne" (pseudonym of Edward Iraeneus Prime Stevenson), a wealthy American sociologist and early gay novelist, is worth quoting at length. After discussing the Krupp and related cases, Mayne continues:
"The same leverage against homosexuals has lately shown itself in the affair, in Rome, of the well-known photographer P-(lüschow), charged with habitual proxenetism and corruption of minors; a case involving a large number of persons of high station and of all nationalities, professions and social distinctions. This affair was not brought to trial until many months after the arrest of P- and the assistants in his studio: which arrest, by the by, was made when a noted German concert singer was discovered in the photographer's premises, in compromising circumstances as to his relations with a youthful cives romanus.
The incident hints at the scale of sexual tourism in Italy, of which the photographs of Glœden, Plüschow, and Galdi were perhaps a byproduct. While Mayne's tongue-in-cheek account reported that Plüschow "had resumed in Rome all his specialities of business", and he continued to publish his work and receive commissions, we may guess that the scandal hurt his career.
The unlucky photographer was shut up in durance all the long delay between his arrest and his trial: it was said, because the Italian authorities wished to give to as many persons as possible their time to escape from Rome and appearances in court. A large and extremely compromising correspondance, between P- and clients all over the world, was seized. The photographer had long specialized [in] bude male "studies", and did a large business in such portraits of tipi nudi e ben membruti, as do several Italian photographers, including a near relative of P- resident in Taormina.
The photographer was sentenced to some eight months of imprisonment and to a large fine. The affair was as much as possible kept out of the local journals, to which satisfaction, for all concerned, a general "strike" of the printers of the daily newspapers in Rome most opportunely contributed. At last accounts, P- had been duly enlarged from prison, and had resumed in Rome all his specialities of business. Another noted Roman photographer of modelli nudi, G-(aldi) was arrested and punished for "injury to public morality" at about the same date, on account of too-audacious "studies" in photography for general sale - even in Rome"
Plüschow was arrested for the corruption of minors, May 1907, for his portrayal of a nude minor twelve-year old boy, after which he "converted" to photographing landscapes. He never stopped producing the erotic images, but learned to be more discreet. In 1910 he went back to Germany, settling in Berlin.
An anonymous 1907 picture of Plüschow at a family reunion in Germany shows the silver-haired photographer, then fifty-five, in formal attire, looking prosperous and confident. His Italian activities eventually made him persona non grata with the family, however, and this group photograph is the only image of Plüschow known to exist. Around 1910 Plüschow returned to Germany after a stay of nearly forty years inItaly. No firther records of his activity are found prior to his death, unmarried and without children, in Berlin in 1930.