New Orleans’s Ladies of the Night

March 04, 2014

One piece of New Orleans history that is often overlooked is the photographs taken by E. J. Bellocq of the “ladies of the night”in the New Orleans brothel neighborhood of Storyville at the turn of the century (approx. 1895-1910). His intimate and whimsical portraits of Storyville draw the viewer in to a way of life that has since become much more under the radar. Years after Bellocq’s death in 1949, his 8x10 glass negatives of his Storyville portraits were found and bought at auction by a young photographer, Lee Friedlander. In 1970, Friedlander made prints of all the negative and displayed them in a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan which was curated by photographer and historian John Szarkowski. Unfortunately, no gallery or museum exists to permanently display the 89 surviving images and to this day the only collection of his images is the catalogue from Friedlander’s show which is out of print and for sale at a price no less than $90 used. If you have the resources to see these images, take advantage. You won’t be disappointed. 

text written by Canbra Hodsdon