For the Harper’s Bazaar Spring 1963 issue, Melvin Sokolsky (born New York City, 1938) reworked a dream he’d had after seeing Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1500). In the painting, a couple appear to be trapped in a bubble emerging from the earth below. In Sokolsky’s dream, he watched himself floating inside a bubble over unusual worlds. “With the awareness that I was prone to live in my own head much of the time, and inclined to severe self-criticism,” said Sokolsky, “I began to have doubts whether I could create images on film that reflected the images in my mind’s eye.”
The realisation became The Bubble, a series of images in which a model encased in a Plexiglass ball appears to float through Paris. In reality, model Simone d’Aillencourt was clipped inside the bauble, which was suspended from a crane. “There were times when this choreographed dance turned into a Laurel and Hardy comedy,” he recalled in 2004. “The morning we shot on the Seine, the Bubble was lowered overzealously into the water, flooding it up to Simone’s ankles, and in turn ruining an important pair of designer shoes.”
Before securing the job for getting Bubbles over Paris, Sokolsky had to prove it would work. So he had a Plexiglass bubble built, hired a crane, and used aircraft-grade cabling to suspend it over the cliffs of Weehawken, New Jersey. It looked fabulous. “On January 20, 1963,” said Sokolsky, “my team and I flew to Paris… The telescopic crane we hired drove up to the designated [meeting place], followed by a small van. Its rear doors opened to reveal the bubble nestled in its cradle. Guy, the crane operator, then lowered the cable…and the bubble was suspended a few feet off the ground. It was hinged at the top like a Fabergé egg for easy entry.”
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