The photographer, who died last week, balances ​monochrome cool and traffic chaos in this striking image of two Vogue models
By 1960, when he took this picture for French Vogue, William Klein had established himself as one of those artists who might help to define the look of the decade to come. Klein was born two days before the Queen in 1926 and died last week two days after her. He first made a name for himself in the 1950s with street pictures of the outer boroughs of New York, full of stylish visual irony and hard-won pathos.
This picture was taken while he was based in Rome. The models Simone Daillencourt and Nina Devos – he liked the serendipity of their forenames – were modelling the new geometries of Italian fashion’s young star Roberto Capucci. Klein invited Nina and Simone to walk to and fro on the zebra crossing in the Piazza di Spagna. He then waited with his telephoto lens and elevated perspective for the right mix of monochrome cool and traffic chaos that he wanted.
Klein had first come to Rome four years earlier at the invitation of Federico Fellini, whom he had met in Paris. Klein had presented the film director with his New York book, only to discover he already had a copy at his bedside. Fellini asked Klein to come to the eternal city to work as an assistant on his new film Nights of Cabiria. When filming was delayed, Klein took the opportunity to wander the streets and create another landmark book of pictures of city and people, including one or two of his Vogue pictures. He later satirised the fashion industry in a pioneering mockumentary, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?. He always liked to keep a casual distance from the self-importance of that world. After his shoots for Vogue he would, he recalled, go home and his wife would ask: “What is the fashion like for this season?” He would always say: “I have no idea.”


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