Ormond Gigli (born 1925) created pioneering fashion, documentary and advertising photography during the twentieth century. He contributed to Ladies’ Home Journal, LIFE, Paris Match, Colliers and TIME magazine and sitters included Sophia Loren, Marcel Duchamp, John F. Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich and Louis Armstrong. His most recognised photograph is Girls in Windows from 1960, which shows dozens of glamorous women standing in empty windows of a New York brownstone building.
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Lips, Time Magazine, New York, 1960
Sophia Loren, Rome, 1955
Ormond in Window, New York, 1960
Anita Ekberg, for Parade, New York, 1954
Nuns, Rio De Janeiro, 1955
Donna Jordan Wearing Norma Kamali, Newsweek, 1978
Girls in Windows, New York, 1960
Girl in The Light, New York, 1967
Born into a working class New York family in 1925, Ormond Gigli received his first camera when he was a young teenager. It was a gift from his father who had borrowed the money to buy it. At high school Gigli took after-school jobs assisting various photographers, one of these jobs was for Wilhela Cushman, fashion editor of Ladies’ Home Journal, from whom Gigli learnt about the exuberant world of fashion photography. Receiving his draft in the Second World War, he joined the navy as a photographer and then returned to civilian life to go to the School of Modern Photography in New York on the GI Bill.
Although invited to work for the Ladies’ Home Journal after the war, Gigli decided to go to Paris where he lived, as he put it, ‘the life of a starving artist’. Whilst in Europe Gigli took trips to Spain and Portugal, returning to Paris with photographs to show to LIFE magazine, the editor of which asked him: ‘Will you do what I tell you to do? Will you take some straight-on shots, and not just profiles, because [Robert] Capa won’t.’ Gigli’s work for LIFE, his first assignment of which was featured as a centrefold, became the catalyst for the beginning of a hugely successful career. He went on to publish extensively in other magazines such as Paris Match, Colliers and TIME. His famous sitters included Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Marcel Duchamp, John F. Kennedy, Halston, Gina Lollobrigida, Diana Vreeland, Giancarlo Giannini, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Sir Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, Richard Burton, Willem de Kooning, Liza Minnelli, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.
In 1960 Gigli bought a brownstone on East 58th Street. He turned the ground floor into a studio, the first floor into his family home, and set about renovating the apartments on the upper floors. He came up against resistance from Marcel Duchamp, a founding figure of the Dada and Modernist movements, who lived on the top floor. Duchamp was reluctant to leave the apartment as he thought the stairs kept him young. He moved out, however, on the arrival of Gigli’s renovators. The building opposite Gigli’s became the focus of his famous Girls in Windows.
Through the 1970s and 80s Gigli focused on advertising photography, maintaining the tendencies towards playfulness and vibrancy that his earlier work had established. He later sold the New York house and retired to a farm in the Berkshires.