Bourbon Street, New Orleans 1955: Photographs By George S. Zimbel

by Matt Damsker


Share This

Share on facebookShare on twitterShare on linkedinShare on pinterestShare on tumblrShare via email

Published by les editions du passage, 2006; hardcover, 96 pages, approximately 40 black-and-white plates; $60.00. ISBN No. 2-922892-20-4. Information:; phone: 1-514-273-1687.

This evocative look at New Orleans' French Quarter in its Post-World War II heyday captures a dark, feisty world of girlie shows, jazz, convivial coffees at the Café du Monde, as well as the loneliness of solitary figures at a bar. George Zimbel's career as an American photojournalist was thriving--he created the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt being raised around her by the air from a subway grate in New York, along with photos of the Kennedys--when he connected with New Orleans' night rhythms, and the resulting trove of images explores time, place and people vividly and compassionately.

Zimbel's photo sequence of the popular Cuban dancer Chelo Alonso, who found fame briefly as a featured player in Hollywood films, wonderfully marks the difference between striptease and genuine exotic dancing, while Zimbel's photos of less exotic strippers conveys the sheer exuberance of Bourbon Street burlesque.

Then there are the low-lit jazz singers and bands that sweat it out on small stages, the knots of sailors pooling their cash to enter a nightclub, male gawkers at the window of a lingerie store, and the hulking nighthawk profile of the actual streetcar named Desire. Engagingly art-directed, with its blow-ups of key photographs in darkroom red, and with descriptive passages in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese, this is certainly an above-average coffee table tome. And one dollar from each book sold is to be donated to charitable organizations for the post-Katrina reconstruction of New Orleans.

Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published this past November.