Milan’s a fashion town. I didn’t have to tell you that, but I thought I’d start by stating the obvious. If anyone comes here, somehow miraculously unaware that this is indeed the case, he or she will soon figure it out by bumping into an inordinate number of tall, gangly girls between points A and B or F or Z.


I have always found this phenomenon simultaneously entertaining and irritating. And let’s be clear (obvious statement #2), I’m not getting any younger, so the inevitable comparison between myself and “them” is getting harsher by the day. I’m not over-weight. I’m not ugly. But when I find myself navigating between the sort of bevy you see pictured above, I feel nothing if not fat, squat and less than attractive.

I remember when I came to Milan and I’d yet to see a fashion model, someone warned me. “You’ll see. They’re different,” she said. “They’re like…another species…they’re not like you and me.” It’s true. They’re not.

They come from elsewhere, many from Eastern Europe. They walk around, hunched over their maps in groups of 2 or 3. They speak accented English if they speak it at all. You can tell which of them will be successes. You can tell which ones need to go home. Now that I’m a mother, I often look at them with maternal eyes. I want to take them in, give them a decent meal, ask them how it’s going. Suggest career alternatives. They often seem lost.

Several years ago, I covered a shoot with Juergen Teller for Telecom Italia. He’d just finished compiling the images for his portrait book, Go-Sees. I cannot look at these girls without thinking of him. He’d recently had a little girl, if I remember correctly, and I wonder if that influenced his decision to approach the models at his door with a democratic eye. Here he is, in a tiny movie shot by the Tate Modern, telling you himself about the young women outside his studio, wanting so much to be seen, to be photographed, to be chosen:

I have no idea who the photographer across the street is. All I know is that he’s somewhere behind that brown door, and periodically there’s a gathering such as this one down on the sidewalk. Each one waiting for her name to be called. Far from home, looking for fame and fortune, at least for now, her hair hanging on either side of her face in listless swags, like curtains revealing an as-of-yet blank canvas.


This entry was posted in AROUND US, ITALY and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Go-see

  1. teresa elliott says:

    you’re the most beautiful one of all.

  2. cecilia says:

    What a fantastic shot, in fact I think you should take it to the photographer across the road so he could see for himself. I know they say beauty is only skin deep, but some of these girls really are flawless and i agree with your friend, poor things are really freaks, aliens, and often sad – I bet they would mob your kitchen table given half a chance, then they would remember they are NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT! and the misery starts all over again. And so young, their window of opportunity is so small.. we might have bigger asses but we still laugh more!! and can EAT!!

    • We might have bigger asses. Might. I love it that you put that word in there. As for the skin-deep comment…yes, that IS the thing that’s so arresting. You tell yourself that beauty is this or that…but when you see them up close, you really are absolutely gobsmacked by how incredibly beautiful they are. Beauty is intoxicating and powerful. No doubt about it.

  3. sbaird says:

    absolutely beautiful shot. somehow it reminds me of the girls that i see around portland, oregon also. fashion is interesting in the ways it follows through to other countries, although everyone is skinnier in your shot than i see here. xo

    • Thanks, Shannon…yes, I know what you mean about the girls around Portland…I know what you are talking about. I think it’s the way young women hold their bodies. As if they don’t quite care. Sometimes I try to do it, but my shoulders don’t fall the way they used to. They’re usually up around my ears in tension…and that’s just not a very fashionable look.

  4. Debra Kolkka says:

    I have worked in the fashion industry for years and have had quite a lot to do with young models. I can only speak for Australia, but the girls I know are mostly delightful. They are just like any young girls, except that they are blessed with extraordinary looks.
    In Australia they are not expected to be extremely thin and are encouraged to be healthy. The agencies try to look after them.
    Most are using modelling to work their way through some type of education and many of the girls I have known have gone on to become lawyers, accountants, journalists and some have made lots of money as models. I remember a very young Miranda Kerr coming to my shop for a photo shoot. She was very professional and it was clear she was going far.

    • That’s great news! I’m sure they’re delightful…but I do worry about them.

      • Debra Kolkka says:

        Most of the girls I know do eat. They are just naturally thin. If they struggle with their weight they don’t stay long as models. I do know some who love it and stay on until they are about 30, but most have moved on by their early 20s.
        Some are smart, some are not, the ones who do the best are the ones with good famiy support.

      • I imagine so. I just worry because…well, I just do. It’s an instinct I have. I think it must be very tough to be constantly evaluated in that way at that age. I think that’s what Juergen was trying to say.

  5. dayphoto says:

    I had a friend that traveled through Italy not long ago…she is tall, dark haired, thin with REAL boobs and dressed very (I mean VERY) nice. She was stunned at the fashion beauties in your city. Looking at the above photo I can see why…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s