Monsieur X was an amateur Parisian photographer of the 1920s and 30s who left behind more than five thousand images of Parisian prostitutes and models dating from the 1920’s.
By some stroke of fortune his photographs were never destroyed through overzealous censors or personal discretion, the fate of so many other collections of the period. Instead he simply entered a bookseller’s shop one day in the 1970’s and offered several boxes of his prints and contact sheets for sale, claiming that the glass negatives had been thrown into the Seine to prevent any future reproductions. An agreement was reached, but the boxes of prints remained in obscurity until they were rediscovered by the writer and historian Alexander Dupouy. With the assistance of the shopkeeper Dupouy eventually tracked down the photographer himself, although he has retained Monsieur X’s anonymity as requested. We know that the photographer himself survived into the 1980s.
In his youth Monsieur X was inspired by the works of Brassaï and other contemporary photographers; he primarily worked in black & white or sepia, although there are some autochromes in the collection. Although he photographed several outdoor scenes as well as other more academic settings, the majority of the models were prostitutes working in a local brothel which had been run by a friend of the photographer; one photo clearly shows a view out onto la Place Pigalle, and on the back of some contact sheets there are lists of the girl’s names which allowed some of them to be found and interviewed by Dupouy. They recalled the photographer fondly; by all accounts he had paid the girls their usual rates, and although they
secretly suspected him of some impotence because he never took advantage of their more physical services they enjoyed posing for him.. The photographer was generally accompanied by a male friend who occasionally strayed into a shot, and in one image Monsieur X himself is glimpsed in a mirror.
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