Bellocq has remained a famous enigma, after his extraordinary photographs were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970. He has appeared as a character in a novel and as the subject of a controversial film, Pretty Baby by Louis Malle. Nobody knows when or how he died. The glass plates, from which the photographs in this book were made, are in the possession of Lee Friedlander. They have been re-edited from this archive to produce one of the most stunning and frank studies of Storyville at its height.
What little is known about E J Bellocq is that he was born in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1873 and died in 1949. He earned his living as a commercial photographer working for shipping companies. At the same time he was taking photographs of working women in the red-light district of Storyville circa 1912. Bellocq's images are one of the few visual records of the area to remain. Eighty-nine glass plate negatives were allegedly found in Bellocq's desk drawer after his death. The art dealer Larry Borenstein, along with Al Rose, bought the contents of Bellocq's studio. In 1966 the photographer Lee Friedlander purchased the glass plate negatives from Borenstein. The re-edited photographs are collected in the book Bellocq.