Girls in the Windows, 1960
To lyrically describe the time for action, we’ve assigned the saying, “a window of opportunity.” Otherwise figurative, the phrase held literal meaning to photographer Ormand Gigli in early 1960. Just across from the artist’s 58th street apartment, a row brownstones slated for demolition, would become the ad hoc backdrop of his signature photograph, ”Girls in the Windows.”
Gigli arranged for 43 women — a mixture of models, celebrities and beautiful unknowns — to pose before the blackened openings of one condemned building, each assigned to her own window, with some spilling out onto the sidewalk. There are the more prudent characters among them, who remain tucked behind the frame while they shyly cast-out a playful gaze or a single outstretched. Then there are the thrill-seekers, standing tall between the jambs, positioning themselves in proud, athletic stances. These intrepid posers seem undisturbed by the 40 feet between themselves and the pavement below, and why should they be? They look fabulous! Lamb-like or lion-hearted, all are dressed as if they were en route to some grand occasion. Cocktail frocks in royal, cornflower and midnight blues, ivory fur-limned shawls, blush-tinted damask swagger-style overcoats — the photograph is a vibrant feast of mid-century fashion.
About his intentions, the artist professed that he “was inspired to, somehow immortalize those buildings” before they were reduced to dust. Yet the outcome of his gesture is not simply preservation. Gigli’s photograph realizes the opportunity to transfigure the structure’s resolutely fatal potential, into one that’s charged with vitality and color. In effect, the image delivers new life after death.
Naturally, such a remarkable work is one of our most sought after photographs at Hamburg Kennedy Photographs. Currently Marla Kennedy is finalizing the first monograph of Gigli’s work, with co-editor Christopher Sweet, for Powerhouse books — of course, we’ll be sure to keep you all posted on it’s upcoming release!
Photo Via Ormand Gigli