Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

with 31 comments

The above photo is the testament that an iconic image can come from all walks of life — crime, tourism, architecture, exploration. For Jack Leigh, his iconic moment came in 1994 when he was commissioned by Random House for the cover of John Berendt’s non-fiction novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book was about the repercussions that the murder of a local male prostitute and its subsequent trial that ensued. The titular “the garden of good and evil,” referred to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. Bredent suggested to Leigh to go to the cemetary for a suitable subject. There he found a sculpture on the Trosdal family plot at the end of his second day of searching. It was on the grave of Lucy Boyd Trosdal, and originally designed both as art and as a birdseed holder. Leigh made a quick shot before dusk set in and spent ten hours in the darkroom editing the photo, giving it a moonlit feel and accentuating the halo around the statue’s head.

The cover image was an immediate hit, and Berendt called it “one of the strongest book covers I’ve ever seen.” Berendt’s debut work became a The New York Times bestseller for over 200 weeks following its debut. The photograph itself was considered a major factor in the success of the novel. Soon people began flocking to the cemetery to see the sculpture. The Trosdal family finally removed the sculpture, now known as the Bird Girl statue, and later loaned to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah for public display.

When Warner Bros. produced a film adaptation four years later, Leigh sued them for copyright infringement over their recreations of the Bird Girl replica in the cemetery, which were similar to his original cover photograph. They eventually settled it out of court. When Jack Leigh died in 2004, he is fittingly buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 2, 2010 at 7:23 am

31 Responses

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  1. Savannah is a very interesting town. I recommend everyone visit it at least once.


    May 3, 2010 at 1:29 pm

  2. I have a very strong love affair with Savannah, I’ve visited Bonaventure many time, I’ve seen the statue in the Telfair, and I’ve read the book. This was great reading a little about how the photograph came to be and the artist! Thanks for the information!

    From Me To You

    May 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

  3. I wanted to let a friend borrow this book but had long ago lost the dust jacket — and the cover underneath was blank. So I managed to buy her another copy WITH the dust jacket on it in the discount shelves at the library, just so she’d be able to gaze at this photo in between reading sessions. It’s that powerful.

    Karin Gallagher

    May 5, 2010 at 3:52 am

  4. The girl statue is beautiful but also creepy in the same time…

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    May 19, 2010 at 8:39 am

  5. My friend has this book, but I always fail to read it. Maybe after this I will read it.

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    May 24, 2010 at 10:16 am

  6. It’s a compelling photo – you find yourself going back to it over and over . . .

    A great read, too. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so.

    The Georgia Yankee

    June 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm

  7. Iconic or not. It is a beautiful image.


    July 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

  8. That photo is nice, but the appearence of jim Williams in a photo I took of Mercer house in 2010 is nothing short of astonishing. He clearly is looking out an upstairs window.
    Astonishing. I didn’t believe in Ghosts, until I had the film developed and OH MY GOD, THERE HE IS.

    scotty G

    October 7, 2010 at 3:29 am

  9. I’d sure like to see it. Ghosts are around us everyday.

    Denise B

    February 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm

  10. What is the bible passage below the statue ?

    Car Ant

    March 9, 2012 at 5:13 am

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