In the late 1950s, Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm moved to Paris and settled in Place Blanche, the heart of the city’s vibrant red-light district and home to the legendary Moulin Rouge. The swirling nightlife of that neighborhood—outdoor freak shows, sidewalk performers, bewildered spectators—provided ideal subjects for the photographer. It was in this surreal scene that Strömholm (1918–2002) met and befriended a community of young transsexuals, working at night to raise money for sex-change operations. Physically male but psychologically women, these “girlfriends” took hormones, adopted female names, wore feminine clothing and glamorous hairdos, costume jewelry and glittering make-up. They were, in fact, quintessential women—charismatic stars straight out of a Fellini movie. Over the next ten years, Strömholm shared their daily lives, photographing them in hotel rooms, bars, and dimly lit streets. An insider in their universe but never a voyeur, he witnessed their existence with tenderness, sensitivity, and wit, and always a strong sense of accountability to the lives he documented.
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