THE ICON: E.J. Bellocq
THE LEGACY: Truth be told, E.J. Bellocq is something of a man of mystery. But that only helps add to the mystique of the early 20th century photographer, whose work provided a rare peek inside the brothels of the city’s infamous Storyville vice district. Laying myth aside, here’s what we know about Bellocq: By day, he captured images of everyday life in New Orleans — including a visit by President-elect Howard Taft to the College of the Immaculate Conception in 1909 — with some being published in local newspapers. By night, though, he created a number of once-lost images, rediscovered in 1970, of Storyville prostitutes in their boudoir workplaces. Why he took them is unclear, but they survive as a fascinating, and sometimes haunting, record of a long-gone slice of New Orleans history.
THE ARTIST: Saegan Swanson
THE INSPIRATION: “If his images of ships and landmark buildings were not noteworthy, the pictures he took in Storyville are instantly recognizable today as Bellocq portraits — time capsules of humanity, even innocence, amid the shabby red-light settings of New Orleans. Somehow, perhaps as one of society’s outcasts himself, Bellocq gained the trust of his subjects, who seem completely at ease before his camera.” — Gilbert King, writing for the Smithsonian magazine in 2012