These photos of prostitutes in New Orleans in the early 1900s are the famous works of American photographer E. J. Bellocq. Mysterious and haunting, the Storyville photos have inspired countless films, poems and novels. You’ll be transfixed by the black and whites after the jump.
Storyville, aka “The District”, was New Orleans’ legalized red-light district from 1897 – 1917. These photos were snapped in 1912 and feature women in different settings, moods, and stances. Some are seen smiling, in their element, showing off their pets. Some are clearly posed for the camera, their hands folded on their lap, their head tilted to the side. The wallpaper, carpet, and patterned stockings place us in the intimate brothel settings, which were often the prostitute’s own room, as well as allude to the time period in which these photos were taken.
Two notable poems that drew upon the photographs for inspiration are Brooke Bergan’s Storyville: A Hidden Mirror and Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia. Films include: New Orleans (1947), Pretty Baby (1978), and Storyville (1992), albethey highly fictionalized depictions of the namesake.
Louisiana’s largest, and most unique, city is famous for it’s cuisine, music, and history with its cross cultural and multilingual heritage. It’s no surprise then, that many famous jazz musicians came out of Storyville, namely: Buddy Bolden, Pops Foster, and Jelly Roll Morton.
This article was inspired by this Retronaut piece.