‘We thought it was erotic postcards’: Madrid museum exhibits 1920s couple’s intimate photos

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It was only by chance that nan artist-curator David Trullo was moving connected a impermanent installation astatine Madrid’s National Museum of Decorative Arts connected nan time successful 2017 that a sealed case, unopened for 80 years, arrived from nan ministry of finance. With nary intends of tracing nan original proprietor aliases their family, it had lain successful a bureaucratic and financial limbo until capable clip had passed for its opening to beryllium legally permissible.

The contents of this inadvertent and startling clip capsule are now nan taxable of an exhibition, Álbum de Salón y Alcoba (The Bedroom and Dressing Room Album) installed by Trullo astatine nan depository arsenic portion of Photoespaña, nan city’s yearly ceremony of photography.

The lawsuit contained home items, clothing, shawls, toiletries and a postulation of photographs belonging to a mates who had joined connected 29 July 1922. Little is known astir nan pair, and for ineligible reasons moreover their identities, which Trullo knows, must stay undisclosed. Despite his efforts, he has been incapable to find immoderate accusation astir them aliases their family aft nan mid-30s.

The couple’s wedding image by Kaulak
  • The couple’s wedding image by Kaulak

“We had an investigation for a twelvemonth to find them, and they vanished successful 1935. So astir apt thing happened successful nan Spanish civilian war. They near Spain; thing unspeakable happens to them. We don’t know. My theory, which is only a theory, is that successful 1936 thing happened and they packed everything. Not nan very valuable things; it’s much sentimental stuff. They packed it and they placed it location pinch nan thought of coming backmost and recovering it, astir apt from a bank.”

Trullo knows astatine slightest that they were good disconnected and that nan hubby was a lawyer. “Photographs of them earlier getting married,” he says “were taken by Kaulak, who was nan champion image photographer of nan time. Everybody wanted a image by Kaulak”.

Husband and woman embracing and kissing
  • From Álbum de salón y alcoba

But secreted among nan family albums, first communion pictures, and portraits of parents and grandparents was a stash of photographs of a wholly different nature. Intrigued by nan curiously misshapen framed wedding image by Kaulak, Trullo recovered hidden down nan people a postulation of friendly and often graphically definitive pictures of nan pair, apparently taken by themselves, dressing up, striking seductive poses, and having plentifulness of sex. Before being cached, nan prints had been cautiously wrapped successful glassine paper.

Trullo recalls nan discovery: “it was a very aggravated moment, arsenic we thought astatine nan opening that it was conscionable a postulation of seductive postcards, but past we recovered retired it was them, and that we had an bonzer archive pinch some sides, their nationalist portraits and nan friendly ones.”

As he examined nan find, Trullo thought he had uncovered photographs of nan woman posing pinch a 3rd party, a transverse dresser, earlier he slow realised it was successful truth nan husband. “He is posing arsenic a transvestite pinch his wife, and they’re playing together.”

“It’s them, doing their ain postulation of … we would telephone it now porn photography, but astatine nan clip they called it fotografía galante, which I for illustration overmuch more,” says Trullo. “There were galore sessions, truthful it wasn’t conscionable 1 – they were very into it.”

The opposition betwixt nan couple’s posed portraits and their backstage pictures, and nan pains they took to hide their activities, mightiness connote that their interests were forbidden or, astatine nan least, unconventional, but Trullo prefers to emphasise really wide their tastes – successful sex, transverse dressing and amateur photography – were.

Concha Piquer
  • Above: Concha Piquer. Images of euphony hallway aliases vaudeville stars successful much aliases little definitive poses were everywhere. Many publications for illustration Muchas Gracias showed underdressed women who were often shape performers. Photograph: Museo Nacional del Teatro

Muchas Gracias

“You could possibly deliberation it was thing exceptional, but astatine nan clip nan marketplace for porn photography was arsenic large arsenic today,” he explains. The Madrid of nan 20s and 30s was “as modern arsenic Paris aliases Berlin aliases London” and erotica was readily disposable successful galore magazines sold connected nan streets. The similarities betwixt nan couple’s pictures and nan risque pictures of nan time propose an enthusiastic familiarity. “I’m judge they saw these magazines, and you tin spot nan connections – nan poses, nan attitudes.

“The dispersed of images of euphony hallway aliases vaudeville stars successful much aliases little definitive poses was everywhere: postcards, chocolates, cigarettes. And nan postcards are nan Instagram of nan time. Many publications for illustration Muchas Gracias showed underdressed women that were successful galore cases those aforesaid stars, aliases impersonators. That was a immense power successful nan portraiture astatine nan time, and nan photographs we recovered show nan power clearly.”

Similarly, astatine a clip erstwhile accepted gender roles were progressively questioned, cross-dressing was acceptable successful definite milieus, not slightest nan hugely celebrated euphony hallway scene, wherever nan fame of a “transformista” (female impersonator) could sometimes eclipse that of his subject.

“In nan discourse of nan time, nan 1920s and 1930s are erstwhile each nan gender roles commencement to crumble. The girls want to beryllium independent, modern, they trim their hair, they alteration their attire completely. And nan men don’t want to beryllium gentlemen immoderate more. They want to beryllium arsenic modern arsenic nan girls.”

Man posing successful female attire, from nan Album de salón y alcoba
  • From nan Álbum de salón y alcoba

Equally importantly, nan exertion existed to readily alteration amateur practitioners to bypass master photographers and nan services of processing labs. A camera could beryllium bought for $8 (£6) successful 1930. “So if we deliberation everybody tin person a smartphone now, a batch of group could person a camera for illustration that.”

Advertisement for nan Kodak Petite
  • Advertisement for nan Kodak Petite, 1926

“You don’t request a master photographer to person a portrait. You tin person a camera that is easy, that is affordable, and you tin return your ain photographs. You pose, you dress up, but nan photographs are taken astatine home. You could spot a camera and a timer, and go.”

Man wearing dress posing successful beforehand of curtains, from nan Album de salón y alcoba
  • From nan Álbum de salón y alcoba

Of course, nary magnitude of privateness could guarantee nan discretion of those who would process nan movie and people nan pictures, but Trullo believes nan mates had recovered a solution.

“I deliberation he had a darkroom, because pinch each nan documents, immoderate things look for photography material. So, we’re beautiful judge that he did everything himself. And galore of nan prints had different finishes – overexposed, underexposed, and a laboratory doesn’t springiness you that. So he was learning nan technique.”

Naked man successful chair, from nan Album de salón y alcoba
  • From nan Álbum de salón y alcoba

Trullo’s fascination pinch nan couple’s behaviour astir what he describes arsenic “a very backstage benignant of activity crippled betwixt them” is humanities alternatively than prurient. Many of nan photographs connected display, and surely nan much schematic examples, are partially obscured by nan glassine insubstantial they were primitively wrapped in. They are exhibited alongside items suggestive of nan era: an appropriately furnished chamber sets nan scene; nan caller inexpensive cameras marketed astatine nan burgeoning amateur marketplace are displayed, arsenic are adverts for 1930s seductive photos, and pictures of euphony hallway stars of nan day.

That said, he besides has 1 wary oculus connected nan future. “What are our grandchildren going to support aliases destruct aliases show?” he wonders. “Because – deliberation astir it – we each person a history and a background.”

Source theguardian