ABOUT THE COLLECTION
How does a thing like this happen? In a career lasting just 17 years, a young woman launches from total obscurity into the stratosphere, becoming one of the most famous people to ever live. Her name and likeness are more easily recognized than history's most powerful and accomplished individuals.
Marilyn Monroe came from a modest background and survived a less than ideal upbringing. She was attractive, but not one of Hollywood's A-list beauties. She could act, but was never an A-list actor. Yet, through her secret formula of ambition, courage, sex appeal, and an artist's ability to reflect the times and foreshadow what might be next, Norma Jeane created Marilyn. And, as they say, “the rest is history”.
Fortunately for us, Marilyn Monroe left behind a mountain of photographs, taken by every class of photographer – amateur, journeyman and world famous shooter. The best of these stills, like all great images, show us something extra – a telling moment, perhaps too fast or too subtle to be registered in real time, but captured in a click of the shutter. It's in these moments, and through these photographs, that we can start to fathom how a thing like this could happen. How Marilyn Monroe, a backbench contract player became a major movie star and the most famous icon from the 20th century.
Capturing this transformation, Andrew Weiss has assembled a unique exhibition of Marilyn Monroe Photographs from her first professional assignment in 1945 through the last photographs taken in 1962. Each photographer's work gives us a different perspective into Marilyn, sometimes covering the same time and place, sometimes the same place 17 years apart. In these pictures, through the contrast and the similarities, we can see bits of the real person she was, and start to understand how this young woman could rise to such heights.
Of course, exactly how these things happen can't adequately be put into words. The formula, if there is one, will always be secret. But in these photographs, one might learn more about Marilyn Monroe, the human spirit, and the will to succeed, than in all the words written in all the years since her death. It's something one will sense, a feeling that emerges as one studies these truly remarkable pictures.
He was the first photographer to pay Norma Jeane for modeling. He was creating a display card to promote his business and he liked her wholesome girl next-door manner. He picked her up at her apartment in West LA and drove up PCH to Castle Rock where they spent the day shooting. She brought her own clothes and did her own makeup and hair. She was paid $20, which is about $200 today.
Lazlo Willinger photographed Marilyn in 1948. This was when the studio execs started investing in her looks; lightening her hair, having her hairline raised, her bite corrected and teeth whitened. Willinger was a premiere Hollywood glamour photographer.
Milton Greene and Marilyn Monroe had a wonderful working relationship as well as deep friendship. They started a production company together in 1955 after Greene’s attorneys found loopholes in her contract with 20th Century Fox where she felt she was being exploited. She spent a great amount of time at the home of the Greene family in Connecticut and the first photographic session between the two took place March 28, 1953.
Aoki was a steward aboard the Pan American flight the newlywed Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio were flying for a combination honeymoon and promotion for the Japanese baseball season. When they were leaving there had been so many photographers and the press hounding them they refused to cooperate with anyone, leaving 250 photographers standing outside at the airport. Onboard the place was Aoki, who asked a favor, if he could take their photographs with his personal camera. They allowed him to do so, DiMaggio begrudgingly, and the roll of film sat undeveloped for almost 50 years.
Their infamous photo-shoot at the Bel Air Hotel. There is a very entertaining story in Bert Stern’s book about his trip out to LA to shoot Marilyn for Vogue, (well worth reading). Suffice it to say, the room was stocked with her favorite red wine and champagne and only accessories for wardrobe. Remember, this was for Vogue! Anyway, she went from no nude to nude in the course of the entire evening and the shots are some of the most amazing ever. Unfortunately vogue didn’t agree and they had to reshoot the entire session, this time with hair, make up and wardrobe people. These photos were taken 6 weeks before her death.
George Barris was an experienced photojournalist hired by Cosmopolitan to shoot and interview Marilyn after her dismissal from “Something’s Gotta Give”. He pitched the idea of a book so she could tell her side of the story and she was very excited about a new start. The photos were relaxed and beautiful, taken at the Hollywood Hills home of Tim Leimert and at the beach in Santa Monica, CA. These photos were taken two weeks before her death.