Pigalle, the fall of Babylon

This exclusive report that was carried out for 9 full months over a seven-year period (1997-2004) is the last testimony of a district that used to be one of the hottest and most famous around the world: Pigalle.
World-known as a hot spot for its nocturnal fantasy life, Pigalle has definitely lost some of its panache. This long-before picturesque district where erotic tourism melted passers-by from all around the world with touts, bar girls and prostitutes is bound to change and become quieter and softer. The strip-tease bars -usually called cabarets-, the sex-shops and other lingerie shops were still heading the field on Clichy Boulevard a couple of years ago while down below, girls' bars living on prostitution were just plenty.
The new planning of Clichy boulevard - literally the spine of Pigalle - since 2004, the urban pressure from the capital city as well as a clear policy aiming at cleaning up some Parisian districts tend to win over fringe inhabitants who had found shelter there. Shady establishments are closing down month after month, the heterogeneous population is yielding ground to young bourgeois, the Moulin Rouge remaining the only one to welcome thousands tourists from...China.
Photographer Gilles Crampes conducted a long investigation, willing to show the slow death of both a place and an era. Following Boubat, Doisneau or Brassaï, he night and day tried to show the everyday life of people working in Pigalle. Their image is sometimes far from glamorous for people in general, but actually, beyond appearances and provoking attitudes, they did let him see their fragile and sensitive personalities. In the cabarets, dead lapses of time can be long and hostesses or strip-tease girls off duty can often prove engaging beyond their pseudo names. This is also true for many transvestites and transsexuals staying in small hotels in Pigalle, still keeping alive the crazy nights that built up the glory of the district. These people who are fewer and fewer today, used to bring an international and exuberant spirit that is now lacking. This district still benefits from a bad name thanks to the crowd hanging about and bold touts soliciting at any cost, aware as they may be of the urge to fleece some last piggy banks, yet, you can notice, after spending quite a time there, that these people are part and parcel of a guild with a large sense of brotherhood. This not beloved part of society is just the soul of the place. With their vanishing, it is the district that created strip-tease and the first jazz club that is fading away. These are the last echoes of Toulouse Lautrec and crazy Parisian nights.