Sunday, April 12, 2009

Portrait of a Narcotics Dealer

This wonderful photo was sold recently on eBay (for $3.99 plus shipping). I could kick myself that I didn't get it! Written on the back: "Paul Le Baron, Narcotic Seller," with a date stamp of Aug 24, 1927.

Googling Paul Le Baron didn't lead me back to 1927 but there does appear to be a cop with that name on the narcotics beat in Long Beach.

So all we know is what was written on the photo and what we see in the image: a sweet, gentle, wistful, gender-bending man sitting at a table in a bar or cafe. Did he ever see the famous portrait of Marcel Duchamp as Rose S√©lavy, (c. 1920–1921)?

Of course Paul was not as stylish as Rose (though he's certainly got style) and there's no trace of make up. Unlike Duchamp who faces the camera in a direct, almost challenging expression, Paul looks off to his right which reflects shyness or wariness, or both.

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