Holiday Displays of New York (2011)


New York’s department stores put together extravagant window displays during the holiday season. Tourists and locals alike are attracted to the vibrant and creative displays that often have themes.

Though they are thought of as providing entertainment and festive cheer during the holiday season their true purpose is of course to entice customers into the store during the largest grossing period of the year. It is shop-front marketing for increasingly embattled brick-and-mortar stores as the consumer economy continues to shift to online e-tail.

These photographs were made in December 2011, when the Bergdorf Goodman display fittingly had a theme centering around photography and exploration. By photographing at night the colours of the displays are intensified. Window viewers and passers-by become silhouetted against the displays, highlighting body posture and gesture as people interact with the displays or suggesting the displays are interacting with them. This lends the series an air of serendipity or irony.

Update: In 2020 the holiday displays have grander statement, with people less able to shop in person due to continuing restrictions in place to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The department stores of New York have taken steps to ensure their displays are bigger than ever and can be viewed from a greater distance, attempting to evoke the enduring idea that New York City is the greatest city of the all (NY Times, 25 November 2020). Perhaps this is one last grand hurrah for the department stores that are left (several of the stores with windows in this series are now gone due to bankruptcy, including Barneys and Lord & Taylor).

Winter themed display at Bergdorf Goodman in 2011. A female mannikin in white furs between two polar bears seemingly looks down at the silhouette of a man in a hat.

Bergdorf Goodman 55

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Explorer and photography themed display at Bergdorf Goodman in 2011. A silouetted woman spreads her arms wide for a photo in front of white bird-like mannikins being 'photographed' with an old, large, bellowed camera

Bergdorf Goodman 6

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Tech-themed window display at Macy's in 2011. Siloutted people bend to look at yellow and orange cogs that loom like large watch mechanisms.

Macy's 46

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The Laday Gaga display at Barneys in 2011. A stylised person / motorbike in gold and orange is seen in front of white vertical strip lighting as two people silhouetted look on.

Barneys 11

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A child points to the purple and blue tech-themed display in Macy's 2011. A large, circular, white-rimmed 'window' shows science and technology items, including an airship.

Macy's 82

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A white female mannikin in a frilled swimming costume stretches her arms out in a green and blue underwater scene. She is surrounded by fish. Two people in silhouette look at the Bergdorf Goodman window display from 2011

Bergdorf Goodman 20

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Two people's silhouetted heads peer into the small round window showing a colourful miniature display at Tiffany & Co., 2011. A golden, curtain-like frame surrounds them and the window.

Tiffany & Co. 4

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The Gaga Workshop scene at Barneys in 2011 shows a white boudoir lit with an brown/orange glow. A stylised female mannikin seemingly gets up from a curtained bed. A woman onlooker is silhouetted in a mirror beside a man.

Barneys 35

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The explorer-themed window display at Bergdorf Goodman in 2011. A silhouetted woman takes a photograph of two male mannikins with stag heads being photographed with an old, large bellowed camera.

Bergdorf Goodman 71

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A black and white savannah scene at Bergdorf Goodman in 2011. Onlookers are silhouetted against a woman in black and white furs and hat with feathers and a zebra in the display.

Bergdorf Goodman 14

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A silhouetted man look at a deer inside a bag in the window display at Bloomingdale's in 2011. The lighting is purple, magenta and pink.

Bloomingdale's 59

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Two people in silhouette look at a more traditional Christmas scene, that shows Santa after he has visited a house in the window display at Lord & Taylor in 2011

Lord & Taylor 20

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