Once one sees a photograph by Eve Arnold is surely aware that this is not any random photo journalist. She had a unique tenderness and the very femininity of her gaze is rare and therefore precious. Through the pages of the Sunday Times her shots animated events and important people for decades. Her beautifully curated books allowed us to flick through her stunning imagery from the comfort of our armchairs.
I will for ever be in love with her Marilyn Monroe book that she published in 1987 and then reissued with 28 never before seen photographs in 2005. It is an elegy to a true legend of the screen, letting her guard down, knowing that Arnold was not there to embarrass her but to capture her day-to-day reality and create photo stories for newspapers and magazines. It was an extraordinary collaboration between the two women that lasted from 1952 to 1961. Arnold’s gaze is if nothing else a protective cocoon through the difficult shoots of The Prince and the Showgirl and The Misfits. Her Marilyn is having her hair done, her make up retouched, chatting with her co-stars, having conversations with Henry Miller, reading books, changing outfits, rolling around in bed and meadows naked. Her Marilyn is a creature fragile but also assertive and intelligent. A world apart from the desperate filmic courtesan of Hollywood myth. One reporter asked her what was it like to photograph Marilyn, her answer is typical Arnold:
It was like watching a print come up in the developer. The latent image was there – it needed just her time and temperature controls to bring it into being. It was a stroboscopic display and all the photographer had to do was to stop time at any given instant and Marilyn would bring forth a new image
(quote from Marilyn Monroe – Eve Arnold page 155)
If you have a copy handy, open it up and revel in the beauty or look out for one. It is one of my most treasured books that never fails to enthrall and fascinate. Arnold was one of the finest photographers at capturing the human spirit on celluloid, a true technician full of humanity and empathy. She will hopefully be referenced as one of the great photographers of people, alongside Cartier-Bresson, Brassai and Richard Avedon.
The last edition of the Marilyn book was this one