Even if those projects do get off the ground, don't expect Hall and Martinique to tell everything they've learned about the mysterious Allison or his relatives.

"Let's just say that due to the sensitive nature of these pictures, there are some things we found out that we're not at liberty to divulge," says Martinique. "When dealing with something like this, we've got to respect the privacy of others who may not share our enthusiasm for Henry Allison's work. Let's face it, this is not landscape photography."
@rule:
@body:Combining dusty data gleaned from public records with the much friskier details suggested by Allison's carnal camerawork, Hall and Martinique have pieced together an intriguing portrait of the puzzling pornophile.

Born in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1900, Henry C. Allison came to Phoenix with his mother at the age of 8. The pair moved into a house at 1103 East Washington--a home that mother, son and a seemingly endless parade of women would share for the next 30-odd years.

Following a stint in World War I, Henry Allison returned to his job at Vinson-Carter Electrical Company. In 1925, Allison hooked up with "Dorothy," the first of an indeterminate number of women who may or may not have been legally married to the electrician. (During one four-year period alone, city directories indicate Allison was married three times; two of the "wives" were named "Topsy" and "Teepee.") Sometime during this period, Allison discovered the joys of erotic photography.

Equally at home on both ends of the lens (thanks to a long shutter cord, the photographer frequently lent his own, not inconsiderable talents to the torrid tableaux), the small but well-built Allison (who resembled the young Gary Cooper from certain angles) was a perfect foil for his uninhibited companions.

"The pictures speak for themselves," says Hall, who points out that Allison is the only man to appear in any of the sex scenes. "This guy was a stud and he liked his ladies--sometimes more than one at a time."
In spite of the rough qualities (both technically and tastewise) that pervade Henry Allison's work, George Hall insists the electrician's photography is not just run-of-the-mill pornography.

"If you follow the progression of Allison's pictures over the years, you can see that, consciously or not, he was experimenting with some pretty arty stuff," says Hall. "There are some technical problems that he never quite overcomes, but, artistically, it's signifigant that he'd even attempt anything trickier than aiming the camera at someone's genitals."
Giving his customers the benefit of both sides of his models' anatomies, Allison shot several women in front of mirrors. Elsewhere in the collection, an idyllic photo of a nude woman contemplating a waterfall is clearly inspired by an old Maxfield Parrish print. And in the collection's most ambitious series, Allison uses 16 photos to document what appears to be a young man's seduction of a young girl; however, the surprise ending reveals the "man" is actually another girl and the series ends with a hard-core lesbian clinch.

However, Hall and Martinique have been far less successful in learning much about the dozen or so models who caper through Allison's wonderland. Outside of a litany of names mentioned in the electrician's notes, the only big discovery to date is that one of the women worked as an usherette in the long-gone Ramona Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

In any event, Henry Allison appears to have been an equal-opportunity pornographer--and a very generous one, at that. Although a few of the prettier models might have passed as film starlets of the era (including one alarmingly youthful-looking nymphet), other subjects were not similarly blessed. One dowdy mother-to-be poses in the advanced stages of pregnancy, while a couple of other dull-eyed fraus look as if they've pulled one too many double shifts during dollar day at the whorehouse.

Although they can't prove it, Hall and Martinique strongly suspect that many of the models in Allison's archives were seasoned hookers.

"If these girls weren't professional prostitutes, they were, at the very least, 'party girls,'" says Hall as he eyeballs one of the collection's more startling images, a photo of a young woman gamely exploring the erotic potential of a carrot. "I think it's safe to assume that these women were not the proverbial 'girls next door.'"
Explaining that Allison's notes have tentatively allowed him and his partner to identify many of the women, Hall is stymied that he can't go any further with the information.

"Some of these girls may have left town, gotten married, changed their names, and died," he theorizes. "Others may still be alive. And if we could locate the ones who were still alive, would they talk? That's what's made this project so intriguing, yet so frustrating. As much as we've discovered, I still feel like we've just uncovered the end of a ball of yarn."
@rule:
@body:At least one collector of vintage erotica finds it "miraculous" that Hall and Martinique have been able to dig up as much dirt as they have.

"Facts about pornography are, pardon the pun, very hard to come by," says Richard Merkin, a collector of old-time pornography who lives in New York City. "A lot of what turns up these days are repros of repros of repros of repros. It's rare to run across a firsthand collection of this magnitude.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...