Beauty’s Only Film Deep

Twenty years ago, I saw a slender woman walking along 52nd St and Sutton Place; it was not unusual but curiously strange nonetheless. She had straight, shoulder-length gray hair, and while from the back she looked like many elderly New York women, her profile had a ghostlike familiarity. I was compelled to get closer.
 
It was Greta Garbo. Indeed, she was alone (though I don’t know if she wanted to be), walking at a brisk pace into her apartment building. A few days later, she died at the age of 84. The image of this former graphic film icon (“who fled her stardom”) has stuck with me, even today. Garbo had a subtle, sculptural beauty, and only days away from her final scene, she maintained a stark elegance. I was reminded of that encounter once again when I came across the photograph above. As purposely posed as she is, her beauty is not just film deep.


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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