Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

The Wild Boys

Nov 06, 2014 - Joakim Almroth

When the »wild boys« are mentioned, most people think of William S. Burroughs novel (The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead, 1971), and I don't blame them - It's not just great but well-known and I recommend reading it if you haven't. But today, I would like to take you back to 1920/30s Berlin and actual wild boys in a series of documented photographs. Unfortunately in low resolution, but documentation is scarce. Wild boys were antisocial gangs of teenage boys involved in detailed initiation rites and ritualistic sex. They lived mainly on the proceeds of criminal activities such as prostitution and robbery. During the 20s, there were over 200 different gangs, isolated from the outside world. »Typically, a young initiate would be forced to box (or knife-fight) with the toughest member of the crew, be gang-raped while bound and gagged, ordered to masturbate publicly and then ejaculate on command, or act as a living commode for his drunken associates. Some newly-inducted boys were chosen by the Bulls as their ‘queens’ or designated shared ‘girlfriends’ for the pack. Most Wild Boys sported pirate-style earrings and garish tattoos. While the majority flaunted their ragtag, hobo garb, others paraded around in distinctive group costumes, like top hats and shabby tuxedoes, American trapper outfits, college graduates in mortarboards, or paper buffalo heads. The gang names alone testified to the influence of Karl May’s North American frontier novels and other staples of German pulp fiction: ›Fear No Death,‹ ›Indian Blood,‹ ›The Forest Pirates,‹ ›The Dirty Boys,‹ ›Red Apaches.‹« – »Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin« by Mel Gordon, which I recommend reading for more information on the Wild Boys and other documentation of german cults and rituals during the Weimar Republic.