That’s me in the picture: Ninalee Craig photographed by Ruth Orkin in Florence in 1951, aged 23 | Photography | The Guardian
This was very much Italy then. It was a very difficult time, just after the war, and men of all ages were hanging around the city centre. And I was admired, but personally I don’t see anything wrong with an appreciative whistle. You can tell I was from another country and, being 6ft, I was an object of curiosity. They were just showing their appreciation.
Oh, and that poor soul touching himself? I was used to it. It was almost like a good luck sign for the Italian man, making sure the family jewels were intact. When it was first published, that was occasionally airbrushed out but I would never consider it to be a vulgar gesture.
My expression is not one of distress, that was just how I stalked around the city. I saw myself as Beatrice of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You had to walk with complete assurance and maintain a dignity at all times. The last thing you would do would be to look them in the eye and smile. I did not want to encourage them. This image has been interpreted in a sinister way but it was quite the opposite. They were having fun and so was I.