The She Man of
It was the
late 70s and I was living in Paris specialising
amongst other antique collectables, in pre-cinema.
I specialised in French Lapierre magic lanterns,
metal and paper optical toys and persistence of
vision. This in turn overlapped into early cinema
and early photography such as Les Freres Lumiere,
Melies and Marey and Muybridge before the advent
of talkies. I met the dealers and collectors of
early photography who were an enthusiastic
collection of characters both sides of the Pond.
New York, Paris and London became my dealing
triangle. I was willing to learn from my clients
and I did, supplying private collections and film
and scientific museums. For a good 15 years I had
I would buy in London for my French clients and
in Paris for my British Magic Lantern Society
clients and also my German, Spanish and Viennese
clients. There was no Chunnel, eBay, internet or
mobile phones to take photos. All I had was a
Polaroid camera which cost me £1 to take and
print out a photo and so I filled the culture gap.
Entente Cordial you might say! I would be
scouring Camden Passage market every Wednesday
looking for dexterity puzzles, games, conjuring
and pre-cinema objects, prints and ephemera.
Every Wednesday I would see Janette always
dressed in the same clothes. A She Man in his mid
30s hunting for top end vintage sepia photographs.
He had very large white masculine hands and wore
no jewellery. A pinched face with long brown hair
tied back in a ponytail and parted in the middle
like an elderly schoolmarm. Always wearing a
cream high neck blouse with a central Victorian
pearl drop brooch high up under his long pointed
chin. He never smiled and always looked severe. A
sight to behold! His figure was most peculiar too.
A pinched in waist line with a blouse tucked
inside a maxi dark brown skirt with a small slit
up the central back and wore pointed dark brown
We never did any business together but we knew
the same photographic dealers. I have no idea who
his collectors were. One day Janette approached
me in Beryl's vintage photographic shop and
suggested we had coffee together. I had no idea
what his motive was but I was sure he had a
It was in the cafe that he confessed he collected
vintage corsets and could I help with his
collection because he wore them every day. Ah,
that was the reason his shape was so odd. I
declined because I did not take to him and his
off the wall personality. Janette didn't speak to
me. There was no conversation. No dialogue. Just
a one way boring intellectual monologue. Today I
wouldn't bat an eyelid living in gay, transgender,
transsexual, same sex marriages, Brighton, but in
the late 1970s I felt extremely uncomfortable not
knowing if I was listening to a man or a woman.
Janette was of course a She Man!
I often wonder how I would react today having a
coffee with the formidable Janette and if there
would be a dialogue or still a monologue.
in Hostal Jayma, Salabrena, Spain on 15/2/17