A life, pocket cameras, and a studio practice.
Posting twice a week and sometimes more!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A Sad and Curious Story
An interest in both Louisiana and photography leads me on some interesting strolls. This building, sad and beaten-up (perhaps by Katrina), further demeaned by hamburger placement, is the last building standing of the original Storyville red-light district in New Orleans. There is nothing that hints of its history or the fascinating tale of two photographers.
The first of our photographers was E. J. Bellocq. Bellocq was a wealthy white Creole living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. A professional photographer, he made his living by taking photographs of landmarks and for local companies. He grew a reputation for eccentricity and unfriendliness. What is so intriguing is that he took personal photographs of the prostitutes of Storyville.
Bellocq died in 1949, and after his death, most of his work was destroyed. However, the Storyville negatives were later found concealed in a sofa and in 1971, they were made into distinctive prints by Lee Friedlander (our second photographer), using the whole of the glass negatives including portions that were scratched away. These photographs were acclaimed (among others by Susan Sontag and John Szarkowski) for their unique poignancy and beauty. This created a fervor of Bellocq inspired photography, film, fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
The influence of Bellocq's violated negatives and bodies can be seen in the work of the photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The mysteries surrounding Bellocq have inspired many other artists, notably or notoriously Louis Malle in his film Pretty Baby starring a very young Brooke Shields and David Carradine.
Susan Shaw is an internationally exhibited painter and photographer. Private and public collections include the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shaw is the recipient of two New York State Artist’s Fellowships and 2007/2009 residency fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center.
Kurt Hoss is a freelance photographer capturing the exuberance of
New York City for 35 years. A favorite project has been documenting life in south western Louisiana, culminating in two recent books, Going to Lafayette and Bosco Swamp.
Shaw and Hoss recently received an AVA gold award for video production, as producers of The Mermaid Parade.