Al Urban (photographer)

article - Al Urban (photographer)

Albert J. Urban, Jr. (1917-1992)[1] was an American physique photographer. His work appeared widely in physical culture and physique magazines of the 1940s and 1950s. Scholar Thomas Waugh described Urban as one of the “pillars of the postwar golden age of gay physique culture”.[2]

American physique photographer
Urban (right) in his photography studio with model Jimmy Stergiou in 1953.

. . . Al Urban (photographer) . . .

A photo captioned “Urban and daughter” from a 1953 profile in Tomorrow’s Man.

Little is known of Urban’s upbringing or personal life. According to an article in the Chicago Daily News, he attended St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey, and played on the basketball team.[1]

A profile of Urban in a 1954 issue of Tomorrow’s Man includes a photo of Urban with his daughter, though nothing more is known of her or of Urban’s marital history.[1]

Urban, like most of the prominent photographers of the physique era, was gay.[3]

He lived and operated out of New Jersey and New York for most of his life, with brief periods spent in Chicago and Hollywood.[1]

A catalogue of Urban’s photos offered at a price of $2 each. Urban advertised these catalogues in magazines like Strength & Health.
A full print purchased from the above catalogue (number 13), depicting a nude man in a classical “archer” pose.

Urban began his career as a commercial photographer.[4] In 1937, he began advertising his physique photographs in the back pages of Strength & Health magazine.[5] At the time, Urban shot mostly nude photographs.[6] The catalogue sheets sent to customers were doctored with “inked-in” posing straps, but these would be omitted from full-sized prints purchased from the catalogue.[7]

Urban’s photography appeared in the first issues of Bob Mizer‘s Physique Pictorial in 1951, the first of a wave of physique magazines showcasing physique photography and aimed at a homosexual audience.[8] In the magazine’s second issue, dated November 1951, Urban announced he would be publishing his own physique magazine, though it failed to materialize.[1]

Urban’s career effectively ended with his final criminal conviction in 1960, which resulted in a one-year sentence and the seizure of most of his work, however he was seen to be advertising in magazines as late as 1963.[9]

. . . Al Urban (photographer) . . .

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. . . Al Urban (photographer) . . .

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