Casa Susanna photograph archive valued at up to $150,000

An archive of photographs taken at Casa Susanna, a heterosexual transvestite commune based in Hunter, New York, is to auction at Wright in Chicago.

The collection is the focus of a single lot sale on October 30, with a valuation of $100,000-150,000.

Casa Susanna
Casa Susanna operated as a holiday home for straight transvestites during the 1950s and 1960s

Established in the mid-1950s by Susanna (also known as court stenographer Tito Valenti) and his wife Marie, the house was used as a resort by male transvestites seeking a safe space to explore the feminine aspects of their personalities.

The majority were straight husbands and fathers who felt unable to fully express themselves within the strictly gendered confines of American society.

Robert Swope, a Manhattan furniture dealer, discovered the archive at a flea market in the early 2000s.

Deeply moved by the photographs, he compiled them into a book with the help of his partner, Michel Hurst, in 2005.

It became the inspiration for the well-received Broadway play Casa Valentina, which premiered earlier this year.

A former visitor to the house in the 1960s, identified only as Sandy, told the New York Times in 2006: "It was the most remarkable release of pressure, and it meant the world to me then.

"I'd grown up in a very conventional family. I had the desire to marry, to have the house, the car, the dog. And I eventually did. But at that point there were all these conflicting desires that had no focal points. I didn't know where I fit."

Swope commented: "Michel and I have been caretakers for this collection for more than a decade.

"After shepherding the collection from a box in a flea market to a play on Broadway, we are ready to let go and allow Casa Susanna to find her next act."

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