Gordon Parks’ now notorious look into the life and leisure of New York showgirls during the late fifties offers up the audience a chance to peek behind the curtain, to see that makeup, the glitter, and behind it all the mundanity of working a job week in, week out.
Commissioned by LIFE magazine in December 1958 as part of a 200-page spectacular on the American entertainment industry, Parks used his moment to offer us a vision of beauty constricted by the construct of the everlasting working tedium.
But this dual heritage of boredom and beauty cannot entirely co-exist in this work. Although Parks’ work does offer another view of an industry many of us will have prejudgements on, the final fact must remain that the subject was shot purely because they were beautiful. They offer, as LIFE noted at the time, “living, breathing proof of the poet’s point that beauty is its own excuse for being.”
The constant movement between magnificence and mundanity must’ve become a tiring facet of life for these and women and that breaking sunrise of emotion during what can seem a dark and seedy corner of the night is why we can’t help but fall in love with these images.
Take a look below.
(Photos by Gordon Parks—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)