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Portrait by E. It was his own secret. This odd little man of dwarfish proportions had a way of putting women at ease. Perhaps it was his diminutive stature.
Or plain pity for the balding photographer with hydrocephalus. People in Storyville knew E. Bellocq as a regular at the brothels and burlesques along Basin Street. From to prostitution was all but legalized in Storyville. A proto- Hamsterdam with its own train station, where newly arrived tourists could quickly get their bearings by grabbing a copy of the Storyville Bluebook —a comprehensive guide to the name, address, and race of every prostitute in town.
Vandalized Storyville Portrait, New Orleans, ca. By all accounts Bellocq was an unspectacular man. He made a modest living as a commercial photographer of local landmarks and industrial scenes. His reputation was that of a loner.
It would be decades after his accidental death in that his true passion would be discovered : eighty-nine glass plate negatives in various states of decay, stowed away in a former slave quarters-cum-junk shop. And humor. Why would Bellocq deliberately vandalize his negatives?
Did he do it to protect his subjects? Or brutalize them? Or maybe one or more of these women recognized at the last minute how their private performances, recorded by this man with a camera, might one day be seen by the world.