Posts Tagged ‘Elaine Kaufman’

Today, I’m going to follow the lead of a popular Kansas City blogger and run a “girlie” picture.

I submit, however, that this photo is twice as alluring and titillating as any photo that my fellow blogger (sorry, not going to name him; gotta keep the focus on the photo) has ever put on his site.

Now, you fellows out there, put your eyes back in your sockets and compose yourselves.

And everyone — ladies, as well as gentlemen — get ready for a quiz.

I will tell you this about the photo: It was taken at Elaine’s, a legendary New York City bar and restaurant that has long attracted celebrities. Elaine’s has been in the news lately, since its owner, Elaine Kaufman, died Dec. 3.

The photo was reprinted Sunday in The New York Times style section, along with a story by Times reporter Tim Arango, who used to frequent Elaine’s. 

Now for the quiz.

1) This picture was taken when?

2) Who is the woman?
A–Olivia de Havilland
B–Jayne Mansfield
C–Candace Bushnell
D–Tina Brown

3) Who is the distinguished-looking man standing in the background?
A)John Updike
B)Prince Philip
C)George Plimpton
D)Gay Talese

4) Who’s the man kissing the lady’s ankle?
A)Jack Kerouac
B)Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
C)one lucky guy
D)Jack London

OK, here are the answers: ACDC. (Pure coincidence…I swear.)

If you’re at all like me, this is a picture that, when seen for the first time, makes you want to know more about it. It was taken by a New York photographer named Jessica Burstein. Burstein’s web site says that she began her career in 1974 as the first female staff photographer for the NBC network.

She now is a freelancer whose work has appeared in many publications and magazines. Among other things, she has worked as the official photographer for the Law & Order franchise, and she was the New York Yankees’ official photographer for construction of the new Yankee Stadium.

On Sunday, I sent an e-mail to Burstein, telling her how much I liked the Elaine’s photo and asking her if she would mind telling me more about how the photo came about.

Yesterday, Burstein phoned me from her home in New York, and we talked about that photo and her photography in general.

Burstein has been a regular at Elaine’s for many years and was a very close friend of Elaine Kaufman. In 1992, Kaufman asked her to document the bar in photographs, and she has been taking photos there ever since.

The night that she took the photo of Bushnell, author of “Sex and the City” and other novels, was “just another night at Elaine’s,” Burstein said.

“Candace was a few sheets to the wind,” Burstein said. “She would admit that.”

Not only that, but she was angling to have her picture taken. 

Burstein said she noticed the interplay between Bushnell and the two men — magazine writers — and that Bushnell made eye contact with her. “She knew exactly what she was doing,” Burstein said. 

In the frame immediately before the seminal one, Burstein said, both of Bushnell’s legs are raised (although not as high as the right one seconds later), but the man on the left is not kissing her ankle. Also, Bushnell’s hair is not shrouding as much of her face. 

When the scene changed slightly, Burstein was ready: “I saw it and caught it,” she said. 

To me, one of the many points of interest in the photo is the contrast between the bacchanalian scene in the foreground and the serious conversation going on in the background, with writer Gay Talese at the center of that facet of the picture.      

Another noteworthy point is that the photo was taken in black and white, which gives the photo a timeless quality. Burstein said she used black and white film exclusively until switching to digital photography in 2004. One advantage of black and white photography, she said, is that it eliminates “color distractions.”

At the time of the photo, Bushnell was about 39 and single. In 2002, she married New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.

“She calmed down a lot,” said Burstein, who got to know Bushnell at Elaine’s. 

The photo first appeared in New York magazine as part of a retrospective, called “The Place To Be,” about Elaine’s.

Asked where the photo ranked on her list of personal favorites, Burstein said that for a long time it was “just another of my Elaine’s shots,” but that she has come to appreciate it more in recent years.

I asked her if she ever got any feedback from Bushnell.

“Yes,” Burstein said. “She said to me, ‘Jessica, you’re brilliant.’ ”

Jessica Burstein, Elaine Kaufman and Peter Khoury of The New York Times, 2008

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