In 1960, while a construction crew dismantled a row of brownstones right across from my own brownstone studio on East 58th Street, I was inspired to, somehow immortalize those buildings. I had the vision of 43 women in formal dress adorning the windows of the skeletal facade.
We had to work quickly to secure City permissions, arrange for models which included celebrities, the demolition supervisior’s wife (third floor, third from left), my own wife (second floor, far right), and also secure the Rolls Royce to be parked on the sidewalk. Careful planning was a necessity as the photography had to be accomplished during the workers’ lunch time!
The day before the buildings were razed, the 43 women appeared in their finest attire, went into the buildings, climbed the old stairs, and took their places in the windows. I was set up on my fire escape across the street, directing the scene, with bullhorn in hand. Of course I was concerned for the Models’ safety, as some were daring enough to pose out on the crumbling sills.
The photography came off as planned. What had seemed to some as too dangerous or difficult to accomplish, became my fantasy fulfilled, and my most memorable self – assigned photograph. It has been an international award winner ever since.
Most professional photographers dream of having one signature picture they are known for. “Girls in the Windows” is mine.
Ormond Gigli was born in New York City in 1925. He became famous early on during the 1950s for his photographs of theatre, celebrities, dance, exotic persons & places. His work appeared prominently on covers & editorial pages of LIFE, TIME, PARIS MATCH, SATURDAY EVENING POST, COLLIERS, and other major international publications.
Gigli worked more like a film director than a photojournalist. His ability to earn his subjects’ trust in his vision –often during complicated, uncomfortable, even dangerous setups– was as important to the photos as his technical finesse with the camera. His disarming way with his subjects is evident in the revealing anecdotes of the people and times he so vividly recalls. He was welcomed backstage on Broadway as readily as he was in the private lives of celebrities. Some of Gigli’s favorite photographs were self-assigned, international award-winners, such as “Girls in the Windows” photographed in 1960.
During the 70s and 80s Gigli turned to advertising photography, while continuing his editorial work. His assignments took him around the world many times. Today, his photographs appear in prominent Galleries throughout the world.