Eve Arnold on working with Marilyn Monroe
Eve Arnold (1912-2012)
Eve Arnold (née Cohen; April 21, 1912 – January 4, 2012) was an American photographer and photojournalist whose prolific career documented the lives of some of America’s most famous icons, as well as the everyday experiences of ordinary people across the world.
Renowned for her naturalistic style, Eve consciously rebelled against the homogeneous narrative with which women were typically represented in the public eye, embracing opportunities to depict taboo subjects such as birth.
She frequently befriended the people she photographed, writing about them alongside her images. Her reputation for capturing the mundane with distinctive sensitivity and pathos continues to endure.
Born in Philadelphia, she originally studied medicine; her interest in photography began in 1946, while she was working for Kodak in New Jersey. In 1948, she began a short period of formal training with Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, producing a series of images of a Harlem fashion show.
From this, she continued her work in Harlem documenting Malcolm X and the Black Power movement. Although she suffered numerous press rejections in the US, the publication of her photographs in London-based Picture Post launched her career.
While she covered a plethora of high-profile news stories, Eve rejected what she saw as the ‘commercialism’ of 1960s ‘Swinging London’ and often turned her attention to more overlooked aspects of society.
Her black-and-white photographs for The Great British, published in 1991, emphasised class division through stark juxtapositions of upper and working class experience, as well as exploring the increasing multiculturalism of British cities.
Eve’s interest in cinema is perhaps the defining aspect of her work; her portraits of Marilyn Monroe, pictured over a period of 10 years, exhibit a delicate honesty few other photographers of the time achieved.
Often photographed without artificial light, Eve’s images evince a tender realism, a consequence of the persistently compassionate relationships she developed with her subjects.
By Katherine Riley