Iconic Photos

In 1898, Maurice Joyant photographed a childhood friend defecating on the beach. The photos would have been forgotten, had Joyant’s friend not been Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the acclaimed painter. Their intentions in taking these photos — and later publishing postcards of them — were unclear, but they remain the earliest photographic testaments to celebrities behaving dubiously, a century before Internet made such indiscretions well-known and widespread.

By this time, the career of Lautrec, who had been precociously talented, was slowly going downhill. Earlier that year, Joyant himself a Parisian gallery owner, arranged a one-man show for Lautrec in Goupil & Cie, the leading Parisian art dealership. The show was a failure. Alcoholism and venereal diseases were now swirling around the painter and he returned to live with his upper-class family, which disapproved his risqué subjects and paintings and his uncle set fire to some of his canvases.

To humor Henri, Joyant would take him…

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