“Most of these women have day jobs.”
I first stumbled upon the New York burlesque scene in 2004. Burlesque shows would take place in the backrooms of small downtown bars. For $5, you and 75 others crammed into speakeasy type rooms to watch Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Little Brooklyn, and Amber Ray perform stripteases on broken down wooden stages. The stripteases ranged from elaborate sensual fan dances in lush costumes to in your face bump ‘n’ grind.
The broken down wooden stages still remain but the number of people who attend these burlesque shows have grown exponentially in a short time. The performances have spilled over from the backrooms to the entire city. Performers from all over the world now travel to New York to be seen on big stages ringed with velvet curtains and mock stages in the backroom of bars.
My interest in photographing burlesque performers wasn’t to highlight striptease. The nudity wasn’t what attracted me. What grabbed my attention was the characters and satire each performer brought on stage.
The majority of these women have day jobs. Hours after riding the crowded subways home from work they would be tassel twirling in front of a raucous New York crowd.
The purpose of my portraits was to show the persona of each performer. I wanted an intimate glimpse away from the stage and crowd. As if their character were walking the streets of New York at noon or midnight.