Maybe it was because she was a woman, but Eve Arnold never felt the need to over sexualise Marilyn Monroe like some of the studio photographers did. In her photographs, many taken on the set of The Misfits, Marilyn is an earthy presence, beautiful and natural, a captivating woman with undeniable vulnerability.
I first became a fan of Eve’s work in my late teens. A huge fan of Marilyn since childhood, the name Marilyn Monroe evoked images of a glorious goddess in gold lame, or standing over a subway vent as her skirt lifted around her head, a fantasy figure who was somewhat over-worldly. Then I discovered that an exhibition of photographs by Eve Arnold was coming to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and that she had photographed Marilyn, so I set off to see it. I was astounded by the beauty of the photographs I saw, the new Marilyn revealed to me. For whilst the early photographs by Eve, taken in 1954, included Marilyn wearing leopard print in the bulrushes, the later images revealed Marilyn as a flesh and blood woman with flyaway hair and flaws.
This was a slightly fleshier Marilyn than the goddess of The Seven Year Itch, making a film written by her husband Arthur Miller that showed the disintegration of their marriage, a marriage that would end with the filming. A pack of Magnum photographer’s accompanied the filming, including Henri Cartier Bresson, and Arthur Miller’s third wife, Inge Morath. But it is Eve who captured her subject best, casual in jeans and chunky knits, still beautiful, but older and wiser than the girl who posed in the bulrushes.
Eve Arnold died this week at the age of 99. A true legend in times when the word is bandied around, her work will ensure that she lives on forever, a giant in the world of photography.