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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

E. J. Bellocq, Storyville Portraits

The only surviving photographs by E. J. Bellocq are eighty-nine glass plate negatives of prostitutes, which were taken c. 1912 in the Storyville district of New Orleans – the birthplace of modern jazz. These images were never displayed during Bellocq’s lifetime, and were only discovered by chance after his death. Lee Friedlander obtained the negatives in the 1960’s, and by painstaking experimentation with obsolete papers, he managed to obtain useable prints from them. A selection of these prints was published for the first time in 1970, in the volume Storyville Portraits. [1]

A lengthy essay by Nan Goldin, which summarises the results of recent research on Bellocq, as well as describing Goldin's own response to his work, can be found at the website American Suburb X, here (the essay was originally published in ArtForum in 1997).

My next four blog entries will be dedicated to Bellocq's photographs.

[1] A volume with a larger selection of Bellocq's images was published in 1996, but it appears from Amazon that this is already out of print, and that the 1970 version of Storyville Portraits (which I own) is more readily available second-hand.

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