E.J. Bellocq, Storyville and Pretty Baby


E.J. Bellocq is best known today for his evocative photographs of the prostitutes of Storyville, the notorious section of New Orleans where prostitution became legal in the late 1800’s and lasted through the early years of the 20th century. Bellocq was a native of New Orleans and began his photographic career, first as an amateur photographer then turning professional, shooting mostly ships and machinery for local companies in the area. However, Bellocq did have a private side to his life  few people knew about. He would travel across Basin Street to Storyville where he turned his 8×10 camera on the ladies of the New Orleans night.  It is these photographs Bellocq today is best remembered for.  In many ways, the portraits at first seem standard portraits of the women of the day except that in many pictures the ladies are nude, though not always. Some of the women seem uncomfortable in the photos, not because they are naked, but more likely because they have no idea how to pose in front of the camera. Yet, others come across as very comfortable, relaxed, posing with an innocent grace. Bellocq was no pretencious “artist,” his work is very informal, almost anti-artistic. They have an old world charm, the women are plump, the clothes almost 19th century. The photographs become even more intriguing for the details they reveal about the interior living conditions, what it looked like inside these “specialty” houses. For example, in one of the photos we surprisingly see college banners (Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri) hanging on a wall. Continue reading