If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”—Eve Arnold
Photographer Eve Arnold, who died Thursday morning at the age of 99, is probably best remembered for her celebrity photographs of Marilyn Monroe, made over the span of a decade from the early 1950s to those taken on the set of the movie star’s final film, The Misfits. But Arnold also traveled the world to make equally exceptional photographs of the poor and disposed.
Arnold, the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1912. In the late 1940’s, she studied photography—alongside Richard Avedon—under inspirational art director Alexei Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in New York. Her first photo story documented African-American fashion shows in Harlem and the project would lead directly to her being granted unprecedented access by Malcom X to document the Black Muslims and the way they worked over the next two years.
In the early 1950’s, she began working for the photo news publications of the day, first for Picture Post, then Time and Life magazines. And in 1957 she became the first woman photographer to join Magnum Photos.
She will perhaps be best remembered for her exceptional photographs of people: the famous, politicians, musicians, artists —among them Malcolm X, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Jacqueline Kennedy and Monroe. “I look for a sense of reality with everything I did,” she once said. “I didn’t work in a studio, I didn’t light anything. I found a way of working which pleased me because I didn’t have to frighten people with heavy equipment, it was that little black box and me”
But it is the long term reportage stories that drove Arnold’s curiosity and passion. She traveled extensively to make work on regions that had been off limits to the west—to China, Mongolia, the Soviet Union, and also to Cuba, South Africa and Afghanistan. In 1971 she made a film, Women Behind the Veil, going inside Arabian harems and hammams.
Arnold continued to work for respected publications, most notably the Sunday Times color supplement. In 2003 she was honored with an OBE in recognition for her services to photography. Her work is renowned for its intimacy. Whether photographing celebrity or the everyday, Arnold’s portraits are magical, memorable and enduring.