Collection Artwork
A young woman in a 19th century black and white photograph sits in a chair and raises a glass.
Ernest J. Bellocq (New Orleans, Louisiana, 1873 – 1949, New Orleans, Louisiana)
Untitled [Storyville Portrait]
c. 1912, printed c. 1970s
gold-toned gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
Lee Friedlander (born Aberdeen, Washington, 1934)
image size: 10 x 8 in.
frame size: 18 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.
The Jack Shear Collection of Photography at the Tang Teaching Museum
possibly Lulu White's Mahogany Hall, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, North America
test Stamped, verso, center: PHOTOGRAPH BY E. J. BELLOCQ / New Orleans Circa 1911-1913 / COLLECTION LEE FRIEDLANDER [in pencil, initialed signature of Friedlander] / This print was made by Lee Friedlander on gold / toned P.O.P. This Photograph is not released for / publication or for commercial use of any kind. / For permission communicate with Lee Friedlander. / 44 So. Mountain Road, New City, N.Y. 10956

Installation views

Object Labels

Donning striking stockings and a saccharine smirk, an early twentieth-century prostitute is captured in the midst of raising a glass—a toast? Her affable disposition and posture break the boundaries of the frame, and she seemingly invites her audience to step into the homey interior of the brothel. Many prostitutes in New Orleans at this time were accustomed to being photographed, largely due to Blue Book publications that served as a kind of travel guide to Storyville, a city-sanctioned area where prostitution was legal. Blue Book pages promoted pleasure in many forms, placing names and faces of these women next to ads for cigars, liquor, and snapshots of high-end rentable rooms, perhaps suggesting the women were simply another commodity or part of the decor.

Does this image reduce the sitter to a pleasurable something like the objects surrounding her, cohabitating a room that might not even belong to her? This particular image never found its way into a Blue Book; instead, it was tucked away in photographer E. J. Bellocq’s desk drawer not to be found until decades later. It is a document of her body but not her name. Are we asking too much of her image to serve as the key to our curiosities?

The Hyde Cabinet, named in honor of Megan Hyde, former Tang Educator for College and Public Programs and Curatorial Assistant, is curated by members of the Tang’s Student Advisory Council. Hyde Cabinet #3: From Brothel to Museum is organized by Jess Lincoln ’20.

From the exhibition: Hyde Cabinet #3: From Brothel to Museum (May 2 – September 1, 2019)

This photograph of an unidentified sex worker was one of at least eighty-nine portraits that Ernest J. Bellocq made of sex workers in Storyville, New Orleans, a city-sanctioned area where sex work was legal.

From the exhibition: Where Words Falter: Art and Empathy (July 9 – December 18, 2022)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Tang Collective Catalog

My eyes easily roam over the patterns and textures in this photograph, gathering pieces of information to try to understand what this image is capturing. The figure’s friendly face and passive posture distract from her relatively risqué attire, and by raising a shot glass in such a domestic space, she rebels against the expected conduct of women from this era. There is something innocently playful about this woman, yet her charm is entirely seductive. My favorite part about this photograph above everything is how it reminds me why I love art so much; it is a place of contemplation and entertainment; it is a puzzle with endless pieces, and yet it is somehow still rewarding to just sit and stare.
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