Why Our Holiday Windows Photographs Look So Magical

Introducing the artist behind the camera


BERGDORF GOODMAN HOLIDAYS ON ICE: Halloween

It was a standard freezing Wednesday night: flags flapped high above while the UNICEF star glowed in its usual spot at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street; taxis and buses zoomed by as swollen shopping bags dangled from tired arms.  Despite the chill, Fifth Avenue excitedly pulsed with holiday cheer and window spectators.  Unbeknownst to their admirers, our windows mastermind David Hoey restlessly stood at the Fifth Avenue bus stop, eyeing his latest creation.  Like every artist, the finished work never is complete—there’s always room for improvement—and David was giving Holidays on Ice one final glance.  Just the night before, we pulled back the curtains to reveal our 2013 holiday windows; and, now that the streets were not overcrowded with spectators, our long-time windows photographer Ricky Zehavi set up to begin her work.

If you frequent our Fifth Avenue block between 57th and 58th street, you’ve probably seen Ricky before; and, if you own Windows at Bergdorf Goodman, you’re more than familiar with her photography.  Living beyond the glass, Ricky’s windows images have a certain brightness and clarity that cannot be seen from the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.  The process of capturing David’s 365-days-in-the-making windows is a time-consuming and arduous task; and, in the days of the internet and social media, it must be completed quickly.

Ricky begins by taking hundreds of photographs of a single window.  Positioning a screen on either side of the window (to minimize glare and reflections from across the street), Ricky takes hundreds of photographs of a single window, pausing only to let pedestrians walk by or to change windows.  Her preferred camera?  A brand new high resolution digital camera.  Just this process can take many hours, leaving Ricky and her partner John working late into the night.

The following morning Ricky awoke before dawn, eager to begin working with the images her new camera captured.  ”Bergdorf’s windows are my playground,” explains Zehavi, “it is easy to spend hours [in the photo-editing process] discovering surprises.”  And, with our holiday windows, little surprises and delights are at their most effusive.  How can someone capture the tiniest details in a 1300×1600 image?  The trick is in the layers.  On average, a single holiday window image will have approximately 50 layers blended seamlessly into a single image; at most, over one-hundred.  By doing this, Ricky is able to bring attention to details in Halloween’s black gown Naeem Khan custom-made for our nine-foot mannequin (shown above); Ricky can add bursts of light and perspective to the Valentine’s Day rose-laden wall (Halloween, she explained, was by far the most difficult and intricate window to process this season due to the many shadows and subtle variations of black).  An individual image takes three- to four-hours to process and refine; Zehavi likens it to restoring damaged art.  

Ricky’s photo-editing marathon ended earlier this morning.  Halloween was her final window to tackle and she needed fresh eyes.  But, soon enough, the layers fell upon themselves, blending perfectly, revealing the intricacies of the Naeem Khan gown, the two Vanderbilt Mansion models and icy threads of the Swarovski crystal-flecked spider web.  Onyx feathers shimmered, icicles looked as though they were actually melting.  The task was finished, and, for this holiday season, Ricky’s windows were complete.

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