Revealing Photos of Burlesque Performers In and Out of Costume

Speak to enough burlesque dancers, and you’ll learn that many of them began performing in hopes of finding not a full-time career but a creative outlet — a way to inject a dose of glamor into their daily lives. Sean Scheidt, a photographer who works out of Baltimore, New York, and LA, captures the fascinating and sometimes incongruous relationships between performers’ onstage personae and civilian identities in his series Burlesque, which pairs in-costume photos with shots of the same ladies (and the occasional dude) in their street clothes.

When the series showed at Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House earlier this year, Scheidt told The Baltimore Post-Examiner that it was partially inspired by Harpo Marx’s discussion of Judy Garland in his autobiography. “I guess it was then that I realized the stage has the power to transform a person into someone else,” he said. “The question I wanted to explore was finding the reality within that transformation.” Scheidt also emphasized his goal of humanizing subjects who some viewers may approach with preconceived notions. The care he took to achieve that end is clear in the intimate, revealing — yet never exploitative — nature of the photos.

Burlesque, which we discovered via Beautiful/Decay, is an ongoing project; as recently as Monday, Scheidt updated his blog with a new diptych portrait. Click through our gallery to see some highlights from the series.

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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt

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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt

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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt
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Photo credit: Sean Scheidt