Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Nightclub Photography Club DeLisa Hard-boiled Nostalgia Evidence Blackmail and Dames with a Camera

Club DeLisa in Chicago's Bronzeville was THE place for African-American floor shows and Jazz during the 1950s. It was run by four brothers and presented the finest in African-American entertainment (all the while allowing gambling in the basement.) From Albert Ammons to Joe Williams. "The Harlem of Chicago"

Like to be your own boss? Consider the Nightclub photographer. One of the few photography genres seemingly without scholarship or museum shows (If you know of one, let me know.) They were and are often women (Noted photojournalist Ruth Orkin started as one, so did a female character in Dick Tracy) Weegee also worked the clubs.

I could probably compile a long list of photographers who started out with a speed-graphic and a tip tray, but I'll leave it up to a doctoral student needing a project.

Big operators in famous clubs printed their own cardboard frames to sleeve the photos. One could go late...folks are more likely to spend the money for a portrait after a few drinks. They appear in hard-boiled novels all the time...being in the club affords them opportunities for both evidence and blackmail. Many a plot turns on the appearance of a "surprise" photograph taken by a pretty dame with a shutter. Nightclub photographers also have provided many historical images of performers as they often had the only camera in the club.

As popular today as it was in the 1950's, I am not sure how long it will last. Whether the cellphone camera will kill the nightclub photographer is questionable...there is glamour missing in a digital picture, and If I were a young photographer starting out today, I would get a big camera with a collapsible bellows and carry it around clubs.

Anonymous Original Nightclub Photo Club DeLisa circa 1950 with original sleeve
Collection Jim Linderman

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