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Vintage Ladies of the Night: New Orleans Red Light District, 1912 [NSFW]

Before Storyville of New Orleans shut down in 1917, it was the only legalized red-light district in North America, and French photographer John Ernest Joseph Bellocq took portraits inside of these storied brothels. The sensual, almost haunting shots were incredibly revealing and varied, from the naughty maiden posed playfully on a sofa wearing nothing but a Zorro mask to the awkward poses of the hesitant sitters, the clutching of their hands, the downward, escaping gazes. In an introduction to his collection Bellocq: New Orleans Photographs, Susan Sontag referred to the photographer’s perspective as an “anti-formulaic, anti-salacious sympathy for ‘fallen’ women.” Visit them in our gallery and decide for yourself.

With his prints and negatives destroyed and miraculously recovered after his death, the photographer (inaccurately portrayed in the film Pretty Baby) also took shots in the opium dens of New Orleans’s Chinatown, but those were tragically never found. Alas! Can you imagine?


Photo credit: E.J. Bellocq. [Spotted via American Suburb X]

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