Thursday, November 3, 2016

Haunting Photographs of the Prostitutes of Storyville, New Orleans' Legalized Red Light District, circa 1912

First of all, the pictures are unforgettable – photography’s ultimate standard of value. And it’s not hard to see why the trove of glass negatives by a hitherto unknown photographer working in New Orleans in the early years of this century became one of the most admired recoveries in photography’s widening, ever incomplete history.

E. J. Bellocq (1873–1949) was an American professional photographer who worked in New Orleans during the early 20th century. Following his death in 1949, eighty-nine glass plate negatives of portraits of female prostitutes from New Orleans’ Storyville district were found in his desk. All of the images were taken circa 1912. Photographer Lee Friedlander acquired them and made contact prints of the 8 x 10 negatives on the same gold toned printing-out paper that Bellocq used in his rare prints. Friedlander is credited with salvaging and promoting the work. The mystery surrounding the photographs and the personality of E.J. Bellocq is furthered by the fact that many of the plates were cracked, scratched, or damaged at the time when Friedlander acquired them.

























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