This RARE historical collection of Edith Beale negatives and rights are for sale.
Serious inquirers only.

Featuring exclusive, never-before seen
photographs of Edith Bouvier Beale, "Little Edie,"
just prior to her leaving Grey Gardens Estate in 1979.

The following are my reflections on meeting and
photographing Edith Beale at her Grey Gardens Estate in 1979:

The windswept shores of Georgica Beach along East Hampton's is a posh neighborhood in Long Island, New York. It gave birth to Grey Gardens; a once stately 26-room mansion. It employed up to 12 servants, and the family name made it to the top end of the social register. The residents, Edith Bouvier, first blood cousin to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and her mother of same namesake occupied the home unsupported financially except for a $60,000 trust fund left by her estranged father and prominent lawyer. I surmised that Edith's mothers eccentricity was the cause, in part, of her father leaving.

As a result, the once stately mansion became an eyesore; the neighbors became increasingly unfriendly and hoped that some day it would be torn down. Edie and her mom did the best they could under the circumstances, but as the years flew by, the estate looked more and more like a weather-beaten barn.

Raccoons soon occupied the attic space and as many as forty cats ruled the estate, leaving cat litter strewn about the landscape.

I became interested in knowing Edith after seeing her on a talk show -- She also appeared in a documentary appropriately called Grey Gardens. I felt I had to meet this woman and do an in-depth photographic study of her. Being a photographer with an interest in character shots, I felt I had quite an unusual subject with incredibly interesting personality. I gave her a call, and with some careful introductions and convincing, I managed to get invited to her estate, 150 miles from me by commuter train. Being very reclusive, she was reserved and somewhat paranoid about our meeting. Upon opening her torn screen entry door, she stood inside with her hands clasped tightly upon the door. After my introduction she came outside and we talked a bit. At this point she would not let me into the estate, but it did not take long to understand why.

Her only friends through the years were her animal friends. They were the only ones she seemed to trust -- they were allowed free reign in her home. At this time of her life, Edith was living alone since her mom passed away shortly before my visit. Her mother was her best friend, a person to converse with and share thoughts through the years. Living with her mother never presented an opportunity for Edith to have freedom in her life that she so much wanted through the years. After her dad divorced her mom, Edith stayed with her aging mother, whose health was poor. Edith felt an obligation to take care of her mom despite her dreams of returning to her main interest in life -- show business. She shared with me many regrets about her unfound dreams and expectations of her life. This was a woman who once was courted by J. Paul Getty, and even Howard Hughes!

Edith was an intelligent woman with paralegal training, among other things. She expressed her political views to me and talked openly about the Kennedy family.

On at least one of my trips, she refused to see me. This was typical of Edith. She would go through periods of time when she wanted no visitors, even if they traveled many miles to see her, as I did. It was frustrating, but I knew of her reclusive nature and felt fortunate to be able to talk to her, let alone photograph her. Later, Edith sent me a letter after seeing the pictures I took.

(Click here to read Edith's Letter to Me)

One time while eating lunch, consisting of a can of chicken spread and a domestic beer, we talked of her plans to some day sell Grey Gardens and the possibilities thereafter. She exhibited a lot of fear and apprehension about such futures. She realized her loneliness and lack of career direction would force her to make some decisions in her life.

Edith was a sweet woman with a sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed my visits and talks with her. She confided with me that upon her death she would give her financial holdings to an animal society of her choice. This again was further proof of her love for her animal friends and her lack of trust for others in her life.

All the photographs I took of Edith depicted a sad and lonely woman. However, the portrait I took of her in the living room showed a woman of strong character and principal and inner beauty once apparent, although now hidden by scarves covering her once beautiful hair.

The resulting photographs, although appearing rather sequential, captured a part of Edith I was trying to convey about her quiet, yet reclusive nature and her lonely existence in Grey Gardens. These photos reveal something rarely seen in the well known documentary "GREY GARDENS".

Today, the once stately mansion with a unique and beautiful Italian imported marble garden, 26 rooms, gala parties, and dignitaries that once graced the beautiful estate are long gone. Grey Gardens was finally sold and the new owners renovated it. Gone also are her feline friends, and the ever present breeze from Georgica Beach.

The neighbors are, of course, happy about the fixing up of the "eyesore." Of course, they are ignorant of what Grey Gardens represented to the life and times of this wonderful, talented lonely woman we called "Little Edie".

These photographs were taken in 1979, which were the last photos taken of Edie in her estate.


2009 - Frank Battaglia. All rights reserved.

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