Tear it up in a hypernation for you
May 18, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Originally published in 1983, Les Amies de Place Blanche [slightly NSFW] focuses on the transsexual community living around the Place Blanche district of Paris in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

More photos by Christer Strömholm

Review in The Guardian
posted by BEE-EATING CAT-EATER (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

Nice find! I did not know about this.
posted by hyperizer at 8:34 AM on May 18, 2012

Beautiful photos. Thank you!
posted by Catchfire at 9:01 AM on May 18, 2012

Terrific. Thank you!
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on May 18, 2012

They capture a lost Paris, sleazy yet stylish, subterranean yet flamboyant, at a time when General de Gaulle was in power and intent on creating an ultra-conservative France that echoed his strict Roman Catholic values....The "night birds" Strömholm photographed worked the streets around Place Blanche at considerable risk, hoping to raise money to travel to Casablanca for the expensive operation that would complete their gender transformation. Most of them did not realise their dream.

...Strömholm "shared their early afternoon breakfasts… watched them put on make-up and clothes, went down with them to the streets as they solicited for clients". This was a kind of insider reportage based on trust and friendship.

posted by mediareport at 9:08 AM on May 18, 2012

From the review:
The transsexuals of Place Blanche led a hard life of often dogged survival, but in the photographs, one senses a camaraderie – between the "girls" and between the photographer and his subject – as well as an almost celebratory defiance.

Oh god dammit.

I'm all in favor of documenting trans communities wherever we are found, and willing to be put in the public eye. But all too often, documenting just turns into an excuse to judge, jape and jeer. Looks like Strömholm didn't feel this need to condemn; why should O'Hagan?
posted by jiawen at 10:11 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Really fascinated by the style these women presented - so stylish in a sophisticated, understated way which seems to speak to class aspiration in a somewhat different way than the women in, say, Paris is Burning. Wondering how they compare to American trans women of the same era. In fact, now I'd like to see a visual history of transgender folk.... Anyone know if one has been published?

I am struck by the presence of animals, and the startling half-animal-half-human beings in the portraits, in Stromholm's shots. Wondering if that is editorial curation, or a theme, and I wonder what Stromholm (and the painter!) were working on there.
posted by gusandrews at 10:21 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

(I am going to make the frivolous claim that they were presaging furry culture :))
posted by gusandrews at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2012

These are so beautiful, thanks for this post.
posted by desuetude at 11:04 AM on May 18, 2012

jiawen, I wonder if you aren't misreading that line. It's a respectful review overall, IMO, and the first paragraph mentions "two of the women featured in the book, Jackie and Nana" -- no quote marks or other qualifications. I assumed the quotation marks around "girls" meant they use that word to describe themselves (ditto with "night birds," which is also in quotes).
posted by twirlip at 12:47 PM on May 18, 2012

Terrific pics. Thanks.
posted by oh pollo! at 3:21 PM on May 18, 2012

Twirlip, it'd be good if that's how O'Hagan meant it. Experience has taught me to expect otherwise, but it's certainly a nice thing to hope for.
posted by jiawen at 8:11 PM on May 18, 2012

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