The Top 10 Photographs of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Baker Mortensen in 1926 in Los Angeles, California. Following an unstable childhood, growing up in orphanages and foster homes, she was spotted by the photographer, Andre De Dienes. From that young age she went on to became the icon we know today, creating a universal image while shaping the dream. From Marilyn Monroe’s famous subway grate photo to little-known shots, here are Artper’s picks of her top 10 portraits.
1. A decisive photo session
In 1945, Norma Jeane signed her first contract as a model with photographer André De Dienes. After a successful first photo shoot, they continued their collaboration the following year, organizing a five-week shoot. These portraits were a resounding success, and were used on magazine covers all over the world. They mark a turning point in the life of Norma Jeane, who would now decide to call herself Marilyn Monroe.
2. The most famous Marilyn Monroe photo
Captured during the shooting of The Seven Year Itch, this famous shot has traveled the world. On a whim, Monroe’s photographer and friend Sam Shaw decided to use a subway grate to create this well-known shot. Laughing out loud, Marilyn is incredibly dynamic in this portrait. The story goes that a crowd of fans and photographers had gathered around her. The result was one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic photos.
3. Ballerina sitting, a new side of Marilyn
Surely one of the most touching of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic photos, this portrait reveals softness, depth and sensuality. The photo session was not destined to be a success since Marilyn’s outfit was too small for her. Rather, far from being offended by this, the model decided to divert this error, by making the bustier an atypical accessory. This famous photo shows the sublimity of her beauty, both dazzling and fragile.
4. Photo session and reading: two passions joined together
Far from the image of “dumb blonde” in which many cinematographic roles wanted to confine her; Marilyn Monroe was brilliant. She read a lot and liked to be photographed during her reading sessions. Once more, the model denotes for her own time. She deviates from the stereotype of the pinup, showing that a beautiful woman is not just an empty shell.
5. Marilyn Monroe’s favorite portrait
Since Marilyn Monroe always selected her images, this portrait by Cecil Beaton is known to be her favorite. She even used it as her autographed photo on many occasions. Delicate and sincere, this shot reflects the almost palpable softness of this beautiful icon.
6. Monroe by Avedon: the sublime meets the authentic
Another one of Marilyn Monroe’s most famous photos, this black and white shot by Richard Avedon reveals a new face of the icon. Having posed for long hours, the photo session comes to an end. Marilyn is exhausted, she quickly releases the pressure, abandoning her pose with her charming eyes. Avedon observes a striking transformation of her expression and asks her if he can take one last shot. The result is this masterpiece of the portraitist, in which aesthetic perfection is mixed with weary melancholy. A photograph whose authenticity only highlights the sublime.
7. Marilyn Monroe’s famous photo with Arthur Miller
Photographed again by her friend Sam Shaw, Marilyn poses with her third husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. Full of tenderness and spontaneity, this image dates from 1957 and was taken in their house in East Hampton, New York.
8. Monroe by Halsman: The Angel’s Leap
Like Dalí, Grace Kelly or Cassius Clay, Marilyn Monroe jumped in front of the lens of the famous photographer Philippe Halsman. This irresistible jump will thus be part of the splendid work Jump Book.
9. Shooting and shooting on the spot
Henri Cartier-Bresson took this picture in the middle of the shooting of the movie The Misfits. Dating from 1961, this image, which we owe to the Magnum Photos agency, shows a concentrated and graceful Marilyn Monroe.
10. The last famous photo
Strongly weakened by taking anxiolytics, Marilyn Monroe nevertheless agreed to pose for Bert Stern. During three days, the model is photographed in a room of the Hotel Bel-Air. Despite her state of exhaustion, she then goes to Stern to select the images, as she has always done. Among the 2600 pictures, Marilyn crossed out in red all those she did not want to be published. Even though some portraits are sublime, Marilyn Monroe dies 6 weeks after the photo session. A tragedy that Stern will then turn to his advantage, publishing a series of portraits entitled The Last Sitting. But the photographer will not stop there. Shortly after her death, he developed and exhibited the portraits that Marilyn did not want to be published.
Marilyn Monroe photos: a life offered to the portraitists
Monroe willingly offered her body to photography and to portraitists who had the chance to meet her. Drawing a line from her painful childhood, she spent all her life reinventing herself. She offered photographers a range of emotions and roles, all of which seem to be a part of her. It is all the more for this reason that Bert Stern’s dispossession of her own image is abject. The photographer – instead of being grateful and admiring – respected neither her personal will nor her hard work. However, we did not remember these images, but all the others. We still have hundreds of thousands of pictures which plunge us into the dream life that Marilyn Monroe wanted to live.
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