This is a fascinating photo-album of historical "pornographic" photographs taken between 1850 and 1950. They are all from the collection of French author, essayist, and critic Serge Bramly. Far from the smutty snaps we tend to associate with pornography today, these are shots that betray the obsessional perfectionism of the voyeur. Expertly lit and theatrically posed (often with elaborate props), they have the boldness and formality that signal true works of art. Bramly's accompanying essay explains the social and artistic circumstances under which they were taken, making this a valuable find for both the connoisseur and the scholar.

The artistic collaboration of photographer Bettina Rheims and writer/art critic Serge Bramly began in 1991 with Chambre Close, which Schirmer/Mosel is publishing for the first time. It lives off the stimulating contrast between text and images. The cultivated literary tone of Monsieur X’s fictional “confessions” is set against photographs that speak a far clearer language. Bettina Rheims has a command of this language, which tells of female eroticism and exhibitionism as no one else does.

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