Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting

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Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting

Bert Stern: Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting

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Bert Stern‘s pictures of Marilyn Monroe, now known as “The Last Sitting”, are some of the most memorable images depicting the actress. In the early 1960s, Bert Stern was one of the most successful, creative and highly paid photographers of the day. His meteoric rise had seen him produce some of the most original and remarkable images at the inception of advertising’s Golden Age, a seminal documentary film, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, and iconic portraits of some of the world’s most famous stars — including the celebrated “Last Sitting” photographs of Marilyn Monroe. Vogue had sent Marilyn the photos from the first day for approval—it was not usual practice but for Marilyn they had made an exception. “A lot of the pictures she had put markings on with magic marker, directly onto the transparency [to indicate images that didn’t reflect her own self-image]. I thought it was interesting but I didn’t think I would use them. Then the art director Herb Lubalin heard about [the crossed out frames] and said they would like to use them in a new magazine they were starting, called Eros. They talked to her PR people and they had no objections.” Stern appeared in a 2011 documentary profile, Bert Stern: Original Madman, in which he expressed his discomfort at having the camera turned on himself. The film was directed by Shannah Laumeister, whom he married in 2009. She survives him, along with his children, Trista, Susannah and Bret, from his marriage to Kent, which ended in divorce.

Bert Stern was a 32-year-old, red-blooded Brooklyn-born boy and he was going to ball Marilyn Monroe. Yes, sir! It was 1962. Stern was cruising the streets of L.A. in a pink Thunderbird convertible, a case of '53 Dom Perignon in the trunk. Bubbly for Marilyn. Earlier, Stern had reserved them Suite 261 at the Bel-Air Hotel. He planned to get Marilyn drunk and coax her to drop her clothes and then ... He wanted to make love with her, but there was the job he'd come to L.A. to do -- to take Monroe's photograph for Vogue magazine. "Making love and making photographs were closely connected in my mind when it came to women," he would later write.

Bert Stern was the last person to photograph Marilyn Monroe before she died, 39 years ago this month. An exclusive interview with Salon.

Bert Stern, the famous commercial and fashion photographer of the 60s, was the last to be granted a sitting by Marilyn Monroe six weeks before her tragic death. The three-day session yielded nearly 2,600 pictures-fashion, portrait, and nude studies-of indescribable sensual and human vibrancy, of which no more than 20 were published. And yet these few photographs ineradicably shaped our image of Marilyn Monroe. takes pride in only kissing Marilyn after she just about managed to say "no" before she passed out on the bed after a grueling day of shooting Stern, it seemed, could do no wrong. “I was having a great time. Life was all work, work was all life.” But by the late Sixties, things began to unravel. I bought new a car from the GI Bill of Rights and drove to the white sands desert of New Mexico to photograph Hershal’s ‘Driest of the Dry’ concept.” Stern left to take a position as Art Director at Mayfair magazine, before reuniting with Bramson at the newly founded Flair magazine.

As the decade drew to a close, he opened and outfitted the first photo super studio where he made photographs for prestigious editorial clients and advertising campaigns — conveyer belt style — working on as many as seven shoots a day. He also began to experiment with his own self-funded “art” projects. The legendary photographs of Marilyn Monroe from Bert Stern’s “The Last Sitting” are the subject of this exhibition at Staley-Wise Gallery. Bert Stern's portraits of Marilyn Monroe were collected in a book entitled The Last Sitting. Photograph: Bert Stern/courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery New York As Stern writes in The Last Sitting: “There were two Bert Sterns. One was the Bert Stern who had been accused of playing it close to the edge… Who had married his first wife with his fingers crossed…who thought his second, real marriage was over six months after it began…who had an appointment with blond destiny. That Bert Stern would gamble everything he had for a night with Marilyn Monroe. The other was Bert Stern, husband father, provider photographer who was going to get the picture, get out of there, go home to his wife and baby, and live happily ever after.”August 6, 1962: Vogue September issue was on press about to be printed when news broke of Monroe's death. The photos exude a sultry, almost love-at-first-sight feeling. They didn’t know each other at this point, yet I feel like the photos embody a familiarity Marilyn might have felt with Bert. And the intimacy doesn’t end there. This book presents the complete set of 2,571 photos. The monumental body of work by the master photographer and the Hollywood actress marks a climax in the history of star photography, both in quantity and quality. As aunique affirmation of the erotic dimension of photography and the eroticism of taking photos, the Last Sitting®it is the world's finest and largest tribute to Marilyn Monroe.

Beginning today, visitors to the Paris exhibition hall (and car dealer) DS World can experience the elegance and vulnerability of Stern’s series in the exhibition “ Marilyn, the Last Sitting,” on view until January 6, 2018. The photos are featured alongside DS car models, including a rare, bright-red DS 21 Cabriolet from 1966.His marriage collapsed, as did his health and his finances. “I was broke. I shipped everything I owned into a twenty-foot container and went to Spain to stay with a friend.” His marriage was irreparably damaged, but he returned to New York and set to work, trying to rebuild his life. Around the same time as the Cleopatra shoot Stern received a call from Glamour with an offer to shoot for them. “I really had my heart set on working for Vogue,” he says, but made a deal with the art director. “If I shot for Glamour I could shoot for Vogue.”

What did the movie star's voice sound like in person? "Her voice was more normal," Stern remembers. "I think 'Marilyn Monroe' is a character she created. That voice was exaggerated. She was a riot. I haven't seen anyone except people imitating her have that. And no one can imitate her properly."

August 5, 1962: Marilyn Monroe was found dead of an “apparent barbiturate overdose." I put that in quotes because there is plenty of controversy about how she died. Was it a suicide? Was it murder? What exactly happened? By the time of the shoot, Bert Stern had already developed a name for himself as a fashion and advertisement superstar photographer. Born to a “medium-poor Brooklyn family”, he worked as a Vogue photographer, and stood out through an inventive and audacious approach towards his work; For a Smirnoff Vodka ad campaign, he traveled to Egypt and shot what would become a highly successful commercial image of the ‘The Driest of the Dry’ Martini. It's a good thing that Stern did not become the date-rape Picassoesque Minotaur he had imagined himself to be. Instead he remained a great photographer. "There are no photographs of Cleopatra," he wrote (forgetting perhaps his photos of Liz Taylor). "No prints of what Paris saw and felt when he gazed at Helen of Troy. They're like dead stars; the light from them no longer reaches us. But there are photographs of Marilyn Monroe." The photo shoot is the culmination of a fantasy and a love affair. Bert Stern had idolized Marilyn Monroe since he met her at a party for the Actor’s Studio in 1955. He now finally had the opportunity to photograph Monroe and so great was his infatuation with the actress, that he referred to setting up his photo shoot as, “preparing for Marilyn’s arrival like a lover, and yet I was here to take photographs. Not to take her into my arms, but to turn her into tones…” The last time Marilyn would pose for a studio shoot in front of a camera. Six weeks later, the actress was found dead in her home. Even despite the ominous facts surrounding this sitting, the images it produced project a haunting, almost dreamlike quality unlike any photographs ever taken of the starlet.



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