Photo by Milton Greene
Photography, above all, was Marilyn’s medium. Whilst it was moving film that confirmed Marilyn’s status as icon and sex symbol, it was the still camera and photography that secured it forever. Where Marilyn became a movie producer’s nightmare, she remained eternally, a photographers dream.
Long before Marilyn Monroe entered the scene or even David Conover (Marilyn’s first official photographer on an assignment at Radio Plane, her place of work) Norma Jeane was an accomplished model, early childhood photographs show her working the camera to her best advantage, she had a natural affinity with the lens.
It has been said that Marilyn Monroe was the creation of men. I would argue that when it came to photography Marilyn is both the muse and the artist in front of a camera, she painted the picture onto the canvas, the photographer clicked as Marilyn worked, she played with the camera, toyed with it, teased it and as a result the camera loved her back, she seduced the lens and she was in control, both Mistress and Master of her own image.
Marilyn herself said;
“We’re all born sexual creatures… Thank God. It’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift because art comes from that, real art, oh… everything”
Maybe for Marilyn, the camera allowed her to escape into a fantasy and at the same time, produce fantasies for others. Almost all her photographers commented on the luminosity of her skin, how she would relax in front of the camera. As a starlet the young Norma Jeane would grasp any photo opportunity, she was open and available.
Robert Stein, Editor of a men’s magazine at the time, said when interviewed for American Masters
“There was a kind of vulnerability – if you look at all the movies she made they don’t add up to the answer of why she still has this appeal, you have to look at the still photographs, the thousands and thousands that show her essence”
Loving Marilyn is going to do exactly that! Looking at her photographers, finding out more about them and more about the woman they were lucky enough to capture with their camera.