The Photography of Melvin Sokolsky
#4 Over New York
Simone d’Aillencourt is the model. The view of New York is shot from the cliffs of Weehawken, New Jersey. Over New York is the March 1963 cover of Harper’s Bazaar. I call the bubble series, Paris 1663.
The bubble in the series is made of Plastivew and is composed of two hemispheres with a 1/8-inch crack to allow for breathing room. Then the bubble was hung from a very thin, but strong cable. (It could have also held up a Cadillac.) This was probably one of the easiest shoots I've ever done in my life because thre were no hair or makeup interruptions. No one could touch her in the bubble, so it was just her and I creating the images.
This picture was shot in the upper floor of a neglected building that I bought in 1960. The peeling walls and rubble weren't something that we styled; they were actually there. I liked the idea of juxtaposing the beautiful dresses of the New York collections against the crumbling, colorful walls of the tenement building. The pictures in this series were immediately rejected by the editor-in-chief of the Bazaar, only to be resurrected by Diana Vreeland.
Iris Big Chair
The model in this photo is Iris Bianchi. The chair is actually an enlarged version of my mother’s kitchen chair. If I were to redo this shoot today, I would not use Photoshop to create the image. Only with a real chair could the model use her imagination and be inspired to come up with creative poses.
This image is not a double exposure, or a trick in Photoshop. The orchid is back-lit, and the image of the model’s face is projected on the flower. The technique allowed me to angle the projector in order to distort the projected image at a moments notice. The final image was taken with my camera, which was nestled next to the projector. The makeup artist on the shoot disagreed with the image I chose to project on the flower. He was right that it wouldn't have been a good choice for a final image, but a perfect image would not look as he imagined it on the flower's curved surface. The concept of projected images is about discovery at the moment.
4th July Cover, 1960
This is the cover that never ran! It was my first year at the Bazaar, and I was not aware of their protocol that editorial credits were the based on the number of ads that an advertiser purchased. And the makeup used was theatrical makeup—not a major advertiser in that issue. I wanted the cover to represent the American flag on a face—pure, clean Americana. The art director Henry Wolf tried in vain to sell to the editor-in-chief. I must admit my naivety had a short life.
The model in this shot is Donna Mitchell. I created this image using ultraviolet light, which is sensitive to many colors, long exposures, and by having Donna turn her head, which created the elongated lip streaks.
Veronica Hamell and Jean Shrimpton modeled for this photograph which appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1960. The room is a replica of my mother's bedroom without any furniture. I had in mind my mother's bedroom floating in space, as the rocket that Neil Armstrong took to the moon shoots by in the doorway. The man eating bread through the wall was a metaphor of the impossible being possible.
The sixties was a time when the best models would pose together. Today, many supermodels will only pose alone. How do these young women learn to work ensemble? I wanted to go against conventional wisdom and shoot four girls nestled together to show various shades of lipstick.
Twiggy, Manhattan, New York, 1967
I was the first to photograph Twiggy in the United States. She was an overnight sensation. Every one wanted to be Twiggy. I suggested everyone wear Twiggy masks, which were shot and manufactured in the studio a week before the shoot. I believe we manufactured over 500 masks of which I have a few left. We gave them out to the crowds who gathered to watch the shoot at the selected locations. Although the participants promised to give the masks back, they mysteriously disappeared.
Deborah Dixon Cover, Harper’s Bazaar
Debora Dixon is truly a Greek statue come to life. I wanted to shoot a simple classic cover that had more character than the other examples of the time. I was looking for an unguarded revealing moment; one that gave insight to Deborah the woman.
Simone Orange Strings
I have always liked ideas that start simple and get progressively more complicated. The strings series becomes more interesting and complicated from image to image, leading the viewer to engage and be interested in finding out what unexpected thing they will find on the following page.
All images courtesy of the Staley/Wise Gallery in New York and the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles.