In December 1958, LIFE magazine published an article about a much-maligned area of American entertainment that featured a series of lush, colourful portraits by legendary photographer and humanitarian Gordon Parks.
'Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz' offered readers a rare and intimate look at showgirls in New York City’s Latin Quarter.
One of the icons of 20th-century photography, Gordon Parks spent his life documenting American culture – focusing on issues of race, civil rights, and urban life – for nearly 70 years. He also worked as a filmmaker, composer and author.
In this candid image, a notable example of Parks’ early experimentation with colour, we see Pat Farrell prepare to make a chess move against opponent Grace Sundstrom while Shirley Forrest, an ex-schoolteacher, looks on.
The strength of Parks’ photography is not only in its visual commentary and raw look at culture (interesting fact: he also directed the seminal blaxploitation film Shaft), it is also, as noted by LIFE, “living, breathing proof of the poet’s point that beauty is its own excuse for being.”
Michelle Ticknor, Director of Curation + Content at Art.co.uk, says: “This soulful image is a wonderful complement to black and white photography. Complete it in an off-white or grey frame to really make the colours pop."
Showgirls Playing Chess Between Shows at Latin Quarter Nightclub, premium photographic print by Gordon Parks from Art.co.uk.