Bellocq, Ernest J. – American Photographer – New Orleans

Ernest Bellocq silver gelatin photograph of a Storyville nude standing by a dresser, lot of two

p4A ItemID D9719406
Ernest Bellocq silver gelatin photograph of a Storyville woman in a large feathered hat

p4A ItemID D9719391
Ernest Bellocq silver gelatin photograph of a Storyville woman in a white dress

p4A ItemID D9719388
Ernest J. Bellocq (American/New Orleans, 1873 1949), "Untitled (Storyville Girl)", c. 1912, silver gelatin print

p4A ItemID F7993108

Ernest J. Bellocq (1873 to 1949), Photographer

Little is known about the life of New Orleans commercial photographer Ernest J. Bellocq and his involvement with photographing prostitutes of Storyville, the Red Light District of New Orleans. Whether it was Bellocq who scratched out the faces of the prostitutes on glass plate negatives remains a mystery. It has been speculated that he scratched out their faces to protect the identity of the Storyville girls.

After Ernest Bellocq’s death, a set of his glass plate negatives of prostitutes from New Orleans’ notorious Storyville District was discovered. Bellocq’s glass plate negatives turned up in Sal Ruiz’s antique shop and eventually came into the possession of Larry Borenstein. At the request of Borenstein, New Orleans photographer Dan Leyrer made a set of prints from the negatives in the early 1960s. Borenstein stored the Bellocq negatives in an old bathroom of the slave quarters behind Preservation Hall. Unfortunately, the negatives sustained water damage from a leaky roof during Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Lee Friedlander acquired Bellocq’s glass plate negatives from Larry Borenstein in 1967 and exhibited the prints he made from them at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967. Reference Note from Susan Sontag, Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, the Red-light District of New Orleans, Random House: New York, 1970.

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