Ernest Bellocq

Sarmad is for young artists, as we have always said. But that doesn't contradict publishing works of artists who are not young, or who are even long dead. We would actually like to, once in a while, publish works of the past, which we find inspiring in a timeless way, works which invoke feelings of respect and awe in us. Ernest Bellocq's photographs of the Storyville prostitutes in New Orleans is surely one of them. Bellocq worked in New Orleans during the early 20th century. He made his living mostly by taking photographic records of landmarks and of ships and machinery for local companies. He also took personal photographs, from the opium dens in Chinatown and the prostitutes of Storyville. In the latter part of his life, he lived alone and acquired a reputation for eccentricity and unfriendliness. According to acquaintances from that period, he showed little interest in anything other than photography. After his death, most of his negatives and prints were destroyed. The negatives of the prostitutes in Storyville were later found. Many of the negatives were badly damaged, in part deliberately, which encouraged speculation. Many of the faces had been scraped out; Bellocq himself being the likely candidate. His photographs of the opium dens in New Orleans were never found. In case you're in the mood for a good text, read Susan Sontag's introduction to a book published in 1976.

Further read: “Storyville – The Red Light District of New Orleans”