"The fact that we happened to be the ones that stumbled onto these is really fortuitous," says Hall, referring to the pair's mutual interest in photography and Arizona history. Like the 46-year-old Martinique, Hall is a freelance pianist. The pair occasionally team up to provide musical accompaniment for silent movies and related ragtime entertainments at various "Pioneer Day"-style events around the state.

For better or worse, demand for those services was not exactly overwhelming last fall. As a result, the duo was able to devote weeks on end to cataloguing its find. "Basically, what we'd bought was a boxful of 1,400 individual negatives and a lot of notes," says Hall. "The negatives were not in strips; Allison had cut them all apart. We had one hell of a mess on our hands."

By consulting Allison's cryptic notes, matching models' wardrobes and hairstyles, and comparing actual cuts in the negatives, the duo was eventually able to catalogue hundreds of different shooting sessions that had taken place over a five-year period.

"It was as if someone had taken a print of Gone With the Wind, run it through a paper shredder, then expected us to paste it back together," says Hall. "It wasn't like this guy had gone out in the desert and shot some dirty pictures one afternoon. This collection represents many, many afternoons out in the desert."
The pair claims that determining that some of the pictures were indeed taken in Phoenix was not nearly as difficult as it might seem.

In one photograph, a nude girl gambols in front of a deserted stretch of railroad track; a mileage marker in the background indicates that photo was taken very near what is now the Mill Avenue Bridge. In another series of shots, women frolic under a waterfall; after surveying old maps, Hall and Martinique theorize those scenes were shot near a manmade reservoir that once served Buckeye. Checking old car license plates against motor-vehicle records indicated that cars visible in Allison's photos (including an Essex, a Model T and two Hudsons) were all registered in Maricopa County.

"The sheer volume of negatives and number of different women involved have convinced us that, on some level, at least, this was a professional operation," says Martinique. "It certainly wasn't a big pornography syndicate, like you hear about today. But from here, it looks like he was running a one-man operation. But we're pretty sure he was selling the stuff around town."
While records indicate that Allison spent most of his life living at a house at 1103 East Washington (now the site of a parking lot), Hall and Martinique have serious doubts that any pornography was actually shot at that address.

Instead, the pair claims it's developed information that strongly suggests the interior porn was actually shot at a house (now razed) located at 722 East Monroe, just a few blocks north of Allison's home.

"Obviously, there's no way of knowing exactly what was going on in Henry Allison's house on Washington," confesses Hall. "But we do know Allison was living with his mother, and I personally have a real hard time believing he was able to operate a pornography racket right under the same roof without her knowing about it."
"Maybe his mother did know what he was up to," continues Martinique. "That's something we have no way of knowing. It just makes more sense to us that everything was happening at this other house a couple of blocks away." The pair believes that in addition to using the Monroe residence as a semipermanent photography studio (virtually all interior shots in the collection feature the same bordello-looking parlor), Allison may also have been using the house as a photo-developing and storage facility.

And there's even evidence to suggest that some of Allison's less graphic material made it beyond the speakeasies, poolrooms and barbershops of Phoenix. While rummaging through the photographer's notes, Hall discovered an address for the Acme Art Company in New York City, a long-defunct company that produced risqu‚ picture postcards for arcade vending machines around the country.

In any event, Allison apparently permanently slammed the lens cap on his camera in 1931, the latest date for which any photo in the collection can be verified.

Interestingly, that's just about when Sheriff John R. McFadden took office, launching a crusade to clean up the lawless town in which Allison's porno-picture empire had prospered.

Even more interestingly, that's right around the time that Henry C. Allison took a four-year sabbatical from the pages of the Phoenix city directory.

"We think Henry realized the heat was on and he just decided to lay low for a few years," theorizes Hall, who was unable to find any record of Allison's whereabouts until the photographer returned to Phoenix. "I believe he made some money and was smart enough to get out of the business while he was ahead. I just think he stopped taking pictures, that's all.

"Obviously, there are still a lot of unanswered questions," says Hall. "But trust us--we're confident in our own minds that these photos are the work of Allison."
So confident, in fact, that the pair has gone so far as to produce a glossy brochure, advertising limited-edition portfolios of the "erotic photographs of Henry C. Allison." Hoping to cash in on their find, Hall and Martinique also hope to publish a "classy" coffee-table book about the Allison works and hope to convince a prestigious photo gallery to mount an Allison retrospective.

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