Monthly Archives: August 2017

E. J. Bellocq and the Prostitutes of Storyville

John Ernest Joseph Bellocq (1873–1949) E. J. Bellocq and his work is a mystery. Making his living mostly by taking photographs of landmarks, ships and machinery for local companies, he also had a secret photographic life, taking personal photographs of the hidden side of local life, notably the opium dens and the prostitutes of Storyville. Bellocq, sometime described as a hunchbacked dwarf and others a nattily dressed dandy, lived alone and acquired a reputation for eccentricity and unfriendliness. After taking his professional daily routine, Bellocq would haunt the houses of prostitution in the then legal area of New Orleans French Quarter called Storyville. His photographs of the working girls showed a certain beauty and respect of the models, and are exceptionally striking. However, no one got to see these photos until well after his death in 1949. Destroying most of his negatives prior to his death, his Storyville photos were later found in a local junk shop, by a young photographer named Lee Friedlander who would eventually mount a well received show of the work and also publish the books Storyville Portraits and Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, assuring his fameThe last part of the mystery – who scratched out the faces on some of the portraits? Some say his Jesuit priest brother was the culprit, others say Bellocq himself as his madness progressed toward his death. No one knows who or why. All-in-all, a great story, a great mystery and some beautiful photographs.