By Bernie on 20 Mar 2011
In 1976 when Nastassja Kinski was 16 years old she began an affair with director Roman Polanski (he was 43 at the time) which ended at the completion of the filming of Polanski's Oscar-nominated Tess, in which she starred.
Interestingly, in 1977, while he was still diddling with Nastassja, Polanski was arrested for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl and pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor.
I had a poster of that exact photo above of Kinski and a Burmese python hanging in my office on Canal Street in the 1980s. I was in my late 30s then and I thought of her as a very sexy and exciting young lady. My tastes must have changed over the decades, the poster just doesn't look as sexy and exciting as I recall it in my mind.
Perhaps Scarlett Johansson (see my 17 articles about Scarlett here) ruined it for me in regard to my favorite actresses of old.
The poster doesn't look to be so edgy today, but in 1981 it was quite provocative. Here's the story behind it:
Interview Magazine, Polly Mellen
In a career that spanned more than half a century, Polly Mellen helped create some of the most indelible imagery in the history of fashion. Her work as a stylist and editor, first under the legendary Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar, and later under both Vreeland and Grace Mirabella at Vogue, helped define a new, more modern ethos about clothes and how women wore them. With an almost playful daring, it brimmed with a kind of strong, smart, unabashedly celebratory feminine independence—as well as an artful element of provocation and extravagance—that Mellen herself embodied and drew upon in her collaborations with photographers such as Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, and later Steven Meisel ...
In Avedon, in particular, she found a lifelong fashion-world partner-in-crime. When the late photographer was first introduced to her, he didn’t want to work with her because he thought she was “too noisy.” But the spectacular and wide-ranging body of images they ended up producing together—including iconic pictures of up-and-coming models such as Penelope Tree, Patti Hansen, and Lauren Hutton, and their now-famous 1981 nude of actress Nastassja Kinski wearing nothing save an ivory Patricia von Musulin bracelet and elegantly wrapped by a boa constrictor—is not only a testament to the kind of creative chemistry they had, but also to their ability to visually and innovatively capture something singular about fashion, people, politics, history, and the white-lightning essence of a moment in their work.
A small note: the article above calls the snake in the photo a boa constrictor but it looks more like a Burmese Python to me. I know what you want to ask: "Bernie, are you really looking at the snake in that photo?"