Nudity was much more acceptable in France than elsewhere in Europe in the twenties and thirties and the stages of Parisian nightclubs such as the Moulin Rouge and the Folies-Bergère and dance halls were awash with half naked and even naked dancing girls; something that wasn't seen in Britain for another thirty years or more.
These dancing girls often supplemented their incomes by posing for photographers producing erotic postcards.
This is not to say that these postcards were freely available but in the right (or wrong) area of Paris, such as Pigalle, Rue Saint-Dennis and the Madeleine, they could be bought easily although most were bought by mail order. Street vendors sold them in the red light districts carefully hidden underneath their overcoats in the prototypical "dirty postcards" way.
In the nineteen twenties and thirties the cards got spicier, in many ways reflecting the more assertive attitudes of women themselves following the Great War.
There was a great sapphic movement in Paris at this time as independent women experimented with relationships with each other as well as men (these bisexual flappers were known as garçonne).
This was increasingly reflected in the cards themselves which, began to not just show a number of naked women posing together but interacting with each other to erotic effect.
From the point of view of today's viewer, the girls from nineteen thirties cards look more modern; the old style, dramatic make-up needed for the old plate cameras was replaced by a more natural look which the modern lightweight cameras could capture.
No-one has ever tried to draw up a list of the photographers, publishers or models involved in this industry. Part of the fun for collectors is trying to identify models in different pictures and the year that the photographs were taken. There were many different postcards and only a few of each survive today. Collecting these postcards has become a popular hobby and, as a result, prices have rocketed.
From a series printed in 1935
Most of these cards were done as silver prints on baryte paper using gelatin-bromide plates. They were printed by the kilometer on rotary presses on pare fed from rolls which allowed true mass production.
We will return to these vintage images another time; firstly, when we look at the sub-genre of girl/girl spanking pictures in the twenties and thirties.