Scarlet Muse is an alluring look at the intimate relationship between photography and prostitution. Since the invention of photography the purveyors of prostitution have served as inspiration and muse for the creation of memorable, compelling imagery. The exhibition traces this unlikely romance from it’s beginning to current day and features over 20 photographers.
At first glance the study of such a topic might seem like an exploration of otherness in an illicit and seedy world but it is quite the opposite. The images included in the exhibition frequently reveal deep personal connections and great affection in ultimately loving relationships. While many of the photographs provide a glimpse into the most intimate activities they also tell stories of the individuals pictured and open a door to countless insights of human behavior.
In a wonderful example of early photographic shenanigans we view a stereo daguerreotype (c.1850’s) of a young woman with white leggings, gown lowered below the shoulders demurely posing with heavily rouged cheeks coyly revealing her nether regions. Moving into the early 20th century we see E.J. Bellocq’s tender formal portraits of prostitutes living in the brothels of Storyville, New Orleans’ notorious red light district. A few years later we have Atget and Brassai photographing ladies of the evening in Paris. Mid century Paris brings us Christer Stromholm picturing his young transsexual friends of Place Blanche.
Benjamin Fredrickson revels in his dual role as artist/hustler with his provocative Polaroid self-portraits made while servicing clients. Punk rock legend Danny Fields shares his intimate living room snapshots of young Greenwich Village “Richies” in action circa mid 70’s. Anthony Friedkin’s selection from “The Gay Essay” documents gay life in gritty San Francisco at the dawn of gay liberation. Artist’s George Awde, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Jane Hilton and Malerie Marder add a sophisticated contemporary perspective on the subject.