Unsung Heroes of Burlesque

If you’re not a frequent taxi-taker (I’m not) then you know that getting over to those Chelsea Galleries can be an ordeal worse than that depicted in 127 Hours. “How far west is it possible to go?” one asks oneself, “Where are all the wagon trains?”

And yet when one is attending a photography exhibition curated by someone named “Joe the Shark”, one makes the hike with high hopes, and in this exhibition, that one (that one being me) is not disappointed. That’s right, grammarians: me is not disappointed.

Now, I’m not a photography critic, but I know what I like. Hah! And it’s not what you think it is. (Okay, it is, but so what? Isn’t most secular art about that anyway?) But aside from that, I like variety of expression, a clear point of view, formal playfulness, etc etc, and this smartly curated show has all that in spades. How much variety can there be in photographs of burlesque dancers, you ask? An enormous amount! Scale: some of the photos are larger than a human being; some of the images, the size of a button. Some are documentary images of performances; others are staged in the studio. Some are straight snaps; some manipulate the image. Highlights:

* Luke Ratray’s large “family portrait” of the entire Wasabassco Burlesque Company. Actually they use it as the header on their website. You can see it here.

* (Much) larger than life portraits of Albert Cadabra and Dottie Lux by Leland Bobbe, alongside quotes by the performers.

* Interesting staged photos by Adrian Buckmaster putting the likes of World Famous Bob and Darlinda Just Darlinda into historical costumes.

* Francine Daveta’s “Burlesque Class of 2010” in which she seems to have taken Jo Boobs’ most recent graduating class and photographed them yearbook style, placing each portrait into an identical frame

* Don Spiro’s work, which also includes some framed photos but with a greater variety in styles, including some 40s pin-ups, and others resembling 19th century nudie photography

* Stacie Joy’s “NYC Burlesque: On Stage”. Ms. Joy seems to like motion and mess, her work full of images of suds, confetti, snake-like tongues, merkins and inflating balloons

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of gorgeous images mostly depicting subjects followers of NYC burlesque will know well, not just the folks above but Julie Atlas Muz, Bambi the Mermaid, Bunny Love, Tigger, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Miss Saturn, Juliet Jeske, on and on and on. I can honestly say there was little in the show I didn’t like, and I heartily endorse a trek on over to see it. It’s open through December 18. Full details, including a full list of photographers is here.


  1. I wish I could be there to see it. I have seen some of these performances and really enjoyed them. But the star of the show must be “Tigger” who has the most gorgeous pair of legs in burlesque!
    Lily Ann Rose
    Banned In Boston


  2. Thanks for the writeup of Joe The Shark’s excellent gallery exhibit, The Unsung Heroes of Burlesque: The Photographers. I am honored to be considered among the highlights. The exhibit will be up until December 16, 2010, with a rumored closing-night party. Hope to see you there!


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