E J Bellocq: Storyville Portraits
6 - 30 July 1978
E.J Bellocq’s ‘Storyville Portraits’ were shown twice in solo exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery from 6 – 30 July, 1978, and 14 June – 27 July, 2002.
His work also featured in two group shows: ‘Floods of Light: Flash Photography 1951 – 1981’ (10 Dec 1982 – 29 Jan 1982) and Multiple Originals (23 Dec 1986 – 23 Jan 1987).
E J Bellocq's images, made circa 1912, continue to fascinate in part because of the ambiguity and mystery that surrounds them. What little is known about Bellocq is that he was born in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1873 and died in 1949. He earned his living as a commercial photographer working for shipping companies. At the same time he was taking photographs of working women in the red-light district of Storyville. The district got its name from Alderman Sidney Story, who in 1898 decreed that prostitution should be legalised in the area. This was less a gesture of moral liberalism than one of pragmatic resignation. The decree was symptomatic of respectable society trying to find ways to control and confine a profession and its associated paraphernalia of gambling, drinking and crime, although at this time much of New Orleans' wealth originated in this area of town.