the book & the process

The Pretty Women of Paris is a 19th Century directory of Parisian Courtesans – originally aimed at visiting English gentleman.

Within its pages we are given the addresses, names & a detailed, often disparaging description of each woman, including her sexual specialities, exploits & preferences.

Anonymously written, and falsely claimed to be a private publication at the ‘Press of the Prefecture de Police’ Paris, by subscription of the members of the principal Parisian clubs in 1883.

There still remains today speculation as to who was the true publisher, however it is felt that it was ‘Alphonse & Co’, a small publisher situated in a back street in the 1er Arrondissement as an imprint was found on a limited edition leaf inside an 1884 issue.

The edition that I am working from was published in 1996 by Wordsworth Classic Erotica, which I found in a bookshop in Greenwich London 2006. Upon its discovery I became the curious visiting English woman.

An original copy of the directory is to be found among the rare books collection of the British Library.

 

I’m a photographer, an anthropologist, a teacher, a mother – the list, as we know, is endless for us all. Much of my work has focused on absence & loss, both experiencing, finding & recreating. It was not always a theme I chose, but it is one that I embrace, it has taken me further into London, to Paris, into the lives of others & has taken me to places within myself.

Returning from Montréal in the summer of 2006 having completed my final film for my Masters in Visual Anthropology, and in pursuit of some light reading I entered a book shop in Greenwich and it was here that I first came across The Pretty Women of Paris, as I leafed through its pages I knew immediately just what I had to do – Map, relocate, find & photograph each of the addresses listed in the book in the hope of capturing an essence of those who worked from them.

I have now spent the past three summers in Paris in pursuit of this, and this year I photographed the very last one.

The main body of the work was taken from phone boxes, as reflections, on departing buses, but mainly on foot. Using the lens to create an impression of layers I have tried to capture a sense of these women, linking the past with the present, absence with the real, the text with the image. My aim has been to recreate this 19th Century directory of Parisian Courtesans -

My journey continues in Paris & London…

A travers des éléments se réfléchissant aussi bien sur des cabines téléphoniques que sur des arrêts d’autobus, et toujours à pied, j’ai passé les deux dernières années à localiser, retrouver et photographier des bordels parisiens du 19e siècle. J’ai découvert leurs adresses, ainsi que le nom et une brève description des femmes qui y ont travaillé, dans un livre imprimé en 1884.  A travers l’objectif, j’ai cherché à capturer une essence de ces femmes, reliant le passé au présent.