An Eye Full
Recalling lives focused on imagery
Above Ormond Gigli's "Girls in the Window"
Gigli Portrait by Ogden Gigli // Kalischer, Germain & Stone Portraits by Jane Feldman
Ormond Gigli, Clemens Kalischer, Jean Germain, and Erika Stone, all in their 90s, each sought repose in the Berkshires from their world travels and hectic lives decades ago. The historical importance of their photos, and the ability of those images to impact us even now, is testament to the poetic beauty and power that photographs have on society. Today, their work is still featured anywhere from our local bookstores to major stock-photo agencies.
Ormond Gigli’s photographs reveal sweeping, intimate, and revealing imagery that focuses on the realms of fashion, celebrity, and the performing arts. His subjects included Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, JFK, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and more. Having photographed for Life, Time, Paris Match, The Saturday Evening Post, and Colliers, Gigli released a dynamic collection of his images, Girls in the Windows and Other Stories, in 2013.
With a studio in New York City, the Berkshires was Gigli’s escape. The 275 acres in West Stockbridge, where he still lives, became a second home in 1958 for him, his wife, Sue, and their two sons. He can see both Mount Everett and Mount Greylock from there. “I’m thrilled to breathe the air and see the sunset,” says Gigli, 90.
He began taking photos while in the Navy, but his fashion photography took off in Europe when he embarked on high-fashion assignments for Paris Match. He lived in France for seven months and then moved to New York City following his father’s death. Then Time asked him to go to London to photograph the top male actors in the world at the time—Laurence Olivier and Peter O’Toole. He also photographed Sophia Loren in Rome (Photo left: Sophia Loren, here at age 21.) Two weeks later, he shot Gina Lollabrigida in New York for Colliers, and in the years to come, many more celebrities.
“It’s great to be a photographer,” he says, “to work with very famous people, and I’m there to take a body, a person and create something and have them do what they do that they’re famous for. I’m directing all the time.”
For his iconic 1960 photograph, “Girls in the Windows,” Gigli’s brownstone was across from a building being torn down. He had two days to take out window frames and pose a girl in each opening before the building was demolished. Gigli told his 43 models to come with their best, most colorful, dress-up clothes.
“The demolition guy said that you have to have my wife in it. We had one hour to do it. We took some girls from a new model agency. We took friends. We filled it up,” he says. “I told Life that I was going to do this. They came over and said that it wouldn’t happen. The day after we did it, they wanted to run two pages.” (Photo right: Gigli standing in front of the image.)
Gigli retired from photographing 15 years ago and came to live permanently in the Berkshires, where he has always enjoyed Tanglewood, skiing, restaurants, walking in the woods, swimming in the pool, and gardening. Sohn Fine Art Gallery is the latest location where his work is being exhibited, and a reception is planned for Saturday, December 5, from 1 to 4 p.m., during the Lenox Holiday Stroll. Gigli will be on hand to sign Girls in Windows and Other Stories.
Clemens Kalischer is 94. At age 21, he and his family escaped the Holocaust and settled in New York City. With no interest in photography, he worked for Agence France-Presse (AFP) as a copyboy, and someone asked him to photograph the doomed SS Normandie. He managed to take a captivating photo, the editor was pleased, and a career was born. During the late-1940s, he photographed people in the streets and was especially drawn to documenting the arrival of displaced people.
Kalischer’s first taste of the Berkshires was when he wanted to take photographs for an article on Tanglewood. Later, he decided he wanted to be in nature, someplace within reach of New York City and Boston, and remembered the Berkshires.
He has worked for Look, Life, and The New York Times, and has photographed an array of musicians, including John Lee Hooker, Max Roach, Gunther Schuller, Mahalia Jackson, Ornette Coleman, the Kingston Trio, Rudolf Serkin, Pablo Casals, James Levine, Van Cliburn, musicians from Tanglewood and the Marlboro Music Festival. Kalischer has spent his career photographing what interested him—agriculture, social issues, architecture, and nature.
Now he travels with his assistant, driving along country roads through Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, doing landscapes. He plans to have an exhibit in December celebrating his 50th anniversary at his Image Gallery located on Stockbridge’s Main Street. The show he’s hanging is a retrospective of the town.
(Photo above right: “Three Men in Darkness” from the Displaced Persons series. Photo left: John Lee Hooker at a Jazz Roundtable, Music Inn, Stockbridge, 1951.)
Jean Germain never planned on a career as a photographer, although she always had an interest in it. Married with three children, she taught at a Montessori school in Westchester County, New York, and since retiring has lived part time in Sarasota, Florida, as well as in Monterey. In 1980, she was asked by Benny Goodman’s publicist, Hal Davis, to be the official photographer at The Jazz Club of Sarasota.
“I said I wouldn’t know the difference between an F-stop and a truck stop,” she says jokingly.
Still, she took up the challenge and, until 2007, photographed hundreds of Big Band music legends like Benny Waters, Milt Hinton, Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Tito Puente, Diana Krall, and Bucky Pizzarelli. She released 100 of those images in a coffee-table book called Jazz from Row Six, which won Best Music Book at the Paris Book Festival in 2014. It’s available locally in places such as the Red Lion Inn gift shop in Stockbridge and the Bookloft in Great Barrington.
Living part time on Lake Garfield since 1965, Germain, now 92, says Monterey is her favorite town in the Berkshires with its sense of community and artistic vibe. Like Kalischer, she loves just driving around and photographing landscapes.
(Photos are from the annual jazz festival at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota. Photo right: Lillette Jenkins-Wisner, who is still performing at age 90. Photo left: the late Benny Waters, jazz saxophonist and clarinetist.
Erika Stone, 91, was born in Germany and moved to the U.S. before the Holocaust, at the age of 12, with her mom, dad, and younger sister. She was baptized in Germany to keep their family safe and didn’t know later that she was Jewish. She lived most of her life in New York City, yet was very connected to the Berkshires. “I fell in love with the Berkshires the second I saw it,” says Stone. “I went every summer.”
She and her husband once owned 100 acres of land on Stockbridge Bowl and lived in one of the little cottages beginning in the 1950s. They spent their summers here with their two sons, drawn to the summer venues and the people she met here. “I needed to recharge and rejuvenate in the Berkshires, even though I’m a city person,” says Stone.
She went swimming in the lake, cooking outdoors, taking hikes, going to concerts, and whatever people enjoy doing in the Berkshires. When her kids were young, she started her own picture agency that focused on children photos, providing images to textbook companies, pharmaceuticals, and other clients.
She would find celebrities at drugstores or what was then Howard Johnson’s in Pittsfield, where she waitressed the three-to-midnight shift. (Photo right: Ginger Rogers, Forest Hills, New York, 1950.)
In the mornings and afternoons, she would photograph at Tanglewood, individuals such as Aaron Copland, Serge Koussevitzky, Seiji Ozawa, and Danny Kaye. (Photo below right: Kaye conducting at Tanglewood, 1961).
In New York City, she pioneered female photojournalism by photographing places like the Bowery and Harlem. “I wanted to photograph people down on their luck, walking on the streets.” She also was an early member of the legendary Photo League, an organization of photo documentarians. It was during those years when she developed her interest in documenting people.
In 1987, Stone was mugged in Herald Square, hurled into an oncoming bus, and lost her leg. She continued working with a prosthetic limb and only recently stopped photographing. She is in the process of digitizing her images, which are all negatives, and her work will be featured in the next Getty Images catalog. Some of her photographs are highlighted in Gina Hyams’s book, The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires, and she exhibited works over the summer at Hallmark Senior Residence in Battery Park, New York City, and Stonover Farm in Lenox.
Stone’s memories are waning, but she becomes lucid and focused when she sees an image of hers. “Photography has indeed filled my life.”