Mel Roberts was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1923. As a teenager in 1939 and 1940, he started creating his own imagery by shooting 16mm movies of his friends. Roberts was drafted in 1943 and served as a cameraman documenting World War II in the South Pacific. Following an honorable discharge from the US Air Force in 1945, Roberts moved to California to study cinema, graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in filmmaking in 1950.
One of Roberts' earliest distinctions was working on the blacklisted film "Salt of the Earth," as music editor in 1952. He became involved in the newly formed Mattachine Society – one of the earliest political organizations of the gay movement, and lived as an openly gay man.
Mel Roberts purchased his first Rolleiflex Camera in 1953 and began shooting his friends and lovers. In 1959, nearly at the end of the classic physique period, Roberts embarked on his professional career as a photographer with his first model shoot in Southern California's beautiful Pacific Palisades.
In 1962 Roberts had his first photos published by "Young Physique" magazine, which began his critical and commercial success, quickly becoming one of the most prominent male photographers of the period. With his work being published extensively in the United States and throughout Europe, Roberts self-published his first book, Mel Roberts Boys in 1967.
Between 1977 and 1992, Roberts' Bel Air home was raided by the Los Angeles Police Department, each time confiscating large quantities of Roberts' work, photographic equipment and customer mailing lists. Although no criminal charges were filed in any of the three raids, and his confiscated property was ordered returned to him, Roberts retired his professional photography career in 1981. With the exception of a few stills that were published in the 1998 book, Male Bonding, Volume Two, Roberts' work had been unseen for nearly two decades.
Mel Roberts' photographic career spanned over 40 years and reflects the growing visual freedom of the 1960s and 1970s in California. Roberts was one of the most prominent male photographers of the period. This first collection of his work reflects a unique vision with images that capture the subtle details of life from these important decades.
Roberts' images are of young men on a journey of self discovery, in a time before people were pressured to define themselves as gay, straight or otherwise. These portraits are a celebration of self expression, hope and the possibilities that are as big as California itself.
Mel passed away in august of 2007 at 84.