Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sleepless Nights: Parisian Prostitutes Of The 50s & 60s (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Nana, 1959 © Christer Strömholm

Absorbed by the sleepless nights of the Parisian Red Light District and the transsexual prostitutes that coquettishly worked the Pigalle during the 50s and 60s, Swedish-born photographer Christer Strömholm turned participant rather than voyeur during those darkest hours.

Building intimate friendships and relationships with his subjects via his Leica and Tri-X films, Strömholm would capture them transforming from their boyish states into their beautiful unguarded drag personas, later gathering with them at a brasserie on Place Blanche to order hot chocolates before they all quietly disappeared back to their hotel rooms. The following evening, as dusk would settle again, Strömholm’s next-door neighbour Cobra, himself a transsexual, would knock upon his friend's wall to invite him around for coffee - as the pair shared their thoughts on the private world which unfolded nightly in front of his camera.

Now a re-edited version of his 1983 book which documented these images, Amies De Place Blanche, has been released, telling a visually provocative tale of a journey through an era where individuals struggled to express their self-identity. The original book also established Strömholm as one of the leading photographers of the twentieth century. 

"This is a book about insecurity. A portrayal of those living a different life in that big city of Paris, of people who endured the roughness of the streets. This is a book about humiliation, about the smell of whores and night life in the cafés. This is a book about the quest for self-identity, about the right to live, about the right to own and control one’s own body. This is also a book about friendship, an account of the life we lived in the place Blanche and place Pigalle neighbourhood. Its market, its boulevard and the small hotels we resided in. These are pictures from another time. A time when De Gaulle was President and France was at war against Algeria. These are pictures of people whose lives I shared and whom I think I understood. These are pictures of women – biologically born as men – that we call ‘transsexuals’. As for me, I call them ‘my friends of place Blanche’. This friendship started here, in the early 60s and it has been going on for 22 years." (Christer Strömholm, 1983)

Head HERE for more info and to purchase.

Panama © Christer Strömholm

© Christer Strömholm

Cobra & Caprice 1961 © Christer Strömholm
Sabrina & Cobra 1962 © Christer Strömholm


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