Portraits of Parisian Femme Fatales From the Roaring Twenties

Portraits of Parisian Femme Fatales From the Roaring Twenties

By: Aranza Payan -

Paris, second half of the twentieth century. The French capital was recovering from the World War that had devastated Europe. In this miserable environment, a woman laborer was making 2 francs a day; a street prostitute earned 5, while the women from a brothel in Pigalle street, known as Masters of Sex, were making 20 francs a day. 

On the other side of the city, in the eleventh district, there was a bookstore called Les Larmes d'Eros. The owner, Alexandre Dupouy, amassed and sold what he called "erotic relics": pictures, paintings, books, and sexual curiosities. The treasures from the shop weren't suited for unsuspecting window shoppers; in fact, people were required to make an appointment to visit this sex temple. 

In 1975, Dupouy received a call from a friend who introduced him to an octogenarian man and promised him he would be interested in his collection. When the eccentric millionaire arrived to Les Larmes d'Eros, he opened the trunk of his car and showed his particular collection. There were hundreds of black and white pictures of smiling and enchanting naked Parisian prostitutes. 
The old man explained he took the pictures in the famous brothel of Pigalle street during the inter-war period.
He wanted to leave his cherished pictures in good hands, with the only condition that his name would never be revealed. 
This is how Dupouy obtained the collection of Monsieur X

Parisian Prostitutes 1   

Parisian Prostitutes 2
40 years after the encounter, Alexandre Dupouy reprinted these unique pictures. It wasn't common for clients to photograph the prostitutes, but the ones that did, would destroy the evidence of their activities. That's why Monsieur X's portraits are such a valuable item. Mauvaises filles. Portraits de Prostituees 1925-1935 was the resulting book, written by Alexandre Dupouy alongside Monsieur X. 
In 2001, a new version appeared entitled L'album obscène d'un photographe anonyme also by Dupouy.

Parisian Prostitutes 3

Parisian Prostitutes 4

Monsieur X was very close to the models, he was a generous and nice client, and this might be the reason why the women appear so relaxed in the photographs. He also did a photoshoot on the shore of the river Marne. He enjoyed exhibitionist girls and capturing them in their freedom. 

Parisian Prostitutes 5

Parisian Prostitutes 6

These pictures are a little proof of what happened in those days in the most romantic capital of the world. Although those were hard times for everybody, the art of sensuality and eroticism continued on. 

Translated by Laura Calçada