Les Amies de Place Blanche
Christer Strömholm (1918–2002) was one of the great photographers of the 20th century, but he is little known outside of his native Sweden. This exhibition presents his most powerful and acclaimed body of work: Les Amies de Place Blanche, a documentation of transsexual "ladies of the night" in Paris in the 1960s. Arriving in Paris in the late 1950s, Strömholm settled in Place Blanche in the heart of the city's red-light district. There, he befriended and photographed young transgender males struggling to live as women and to raise money for sex-change operations. Strömholm's surprisingly intimate portraits and lush Brassaï-like night scenes form a magnificent, dark, and at times quite moving photo album, a vibrant tribute to these girls, the "girlfriends of Place Blanche." The photographs were first published in Sweden in 1983, and the book quickly sold out, becoming a cult classic; it is being reissued in French and English this year. Strömholm's photo-essay raises profound issues about sexuality and gender; as he wrote in 1983, "It was then—and still is—about obtaining the freedom to choose one's own life and identity." This exhibition, the first presentation of Strömholm's work in an American museum, is organized by ICP Curatorial Assistant Pauline Vermare.