UNLIKE TODAY, taking photographs in the past was a way to preserve the most treasured moments in one’s life. Before the smartphone made it possible to take pictures of what you ate for lunch, you had to be vigilant when choosing to press the shutter button to get the perfect shot lest it go to waste. Every photograph was ar-ranged not only to capture the moment but to tell a story about the subjects. In Len & Cub, authors Meredith J. Batt and Dusty Green have assembled a large number of photographs that tell the unfolding story of Leonard Olive Keith (1891–1950) and Joseph Austin Coates (1899–1965)—the “Len” and “Cub” of the book’s title.
Growing up together in Havelock, a rural town in New Brunswick, Canada, in the early 20th century, Len and Cub were the subjects of numerous photographs that were collected and saved and then later discovered by one John Corey. They’re now housed in the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) thanks to Corey’s gift of the collection. Len was the amateur photographer who made a point of documenting their love affair from beginning to end. The photographs depict what is clearly an intimate relationship between two men at a time when homosexuality was illegal and condemned and usually hidden in the closet.