Monroe Photographs: Eve Arnold & Marilyn visit Bement (1950s)

Eve Arnold, OBE, Hon. FRPS (née Cohen; 1912 – 2012) was an American photojournalist. She joined Magnum Photosagency in 1951, and became a full member in 1957.

Eve Arnold photographed many of the iconic figures who shaped the second half of the twentieth century, yet she was equally comfortable documenting the lives of the poor and dispossessed, “migrant workers, civil-rights protestors of apartheid in South Africa, disabled Vietnam war veterans and Mongolian herdsmen.” For Arnold, there was no dichotomy: “”I don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary,” she said in a 1990 BBC interview, “I see them simply as people in front of my lens.” She also photographed Queen Elizabeth II, Malcolm X, and Joan Crawford, and traveled around the world, photographing in China, Russia, South Africa and Afghanistan

Arnold’s images of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits (1961) were perhaps her most memorable, but she had taken many photos of Monroe from 1951 onwards. She said about photographing Marilyn:

I found myself in the privileged position of photographing somebody who I had first thought had a gift for the camera, but who turned out had a genius for it. She had a naive quality, but she also had a great sense of showmanship and self-promotion. She was very clever. She was able to assess each photographer. Even if it was only an amateur with a box camera, she worked with the same intensity and diligence that she would have if she were working with a top professional. She would photograph ten pounds lighter which is against every rule in the book. The smile was brilliant. Her skin was translucent, white, luminous. She was always sort of golden-looking, and because she had a down of just very fine golden hairs on her face it trapped the light and caused an aureole to form, giving her a faint glow. It was extraordinary. I’ve never seen it before. It was a nimbus, so that she looked almost angelic.

Arnold left the United States and moved permanently to England in the early 1960s with her son, Frank Arnold. While working for the London Sunday Times, she began to make serious use of colour photography. Her previously unseen photos of Monroe were shown at an Halcyon Gallery exhibition in London during May 2005.

Photographs by Eve Arnold, 1955

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