E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits

E.J. Bellocq: Portraits of Storyville will be on view September 12th through October 19th at Fraenkel Gallery, 49 Geary Street, San Francisco.

E.J. Bellocq’s photographs of Storyville prostitutes became famous in 1970, when they were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Bellocq was more or less unknown before that, but with the show and the accompanying book, his mysterious, hauntingly beautiful┬áportraits┬áreaches a wide audience, and Bellcoq became a celebrated figure in the history of photography. Of the eighty-nine plates discovered by the photographer Lee Friedlander, many have remained unpublished and unseen. Fraenkel Gallery will mount and exhibition of twenty-one prints, many not shown before, to accompany the long-awaited release of Bellocq, only the second book to be published of Bellocq’s work (by Random House, New York).

Bellocq is remembered as an odd man whose craft seems to have absorbed most of his energy and interest. His pictures tell us perhaps more about him than can those who knew him only as a strange figure with a camera who kept very much to himself. They reveal an artist of considerable skill and uncultivated but compelling sensibility. Writes John Szarkowski, “Bellocq’s prostitiutes are beautiful…Beautiful innocently or tenderly or wickedly or joyfully or obscenely, but all beautiful, in the same sense that they are present, unique, irreplacable, believable, receptive.”