Over a life that spanned nearly a century, Eve Arnold was a pioneering female phographer whose remarkable portraits covered almost all facets of humanity. Equally known for her portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Malcom X and the Black power movement, Arnold was able to capture a certain human intimacy that eluded so many photographers before her. She is quoted as saying, “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.”
She was the first woman to join the all male Magnum photographic agency co-founded by Robert Capa. Of Arnold’s work, Capa is quoted as saying, “Her falls metaphorically between Marlene Dietrich’s legs and the bitter lives of migratory potato pickers.”
Through the 60s and 70s, Arnold photographed many worlds that were previously closed to most of the western world. She was one of the first Americans to be granted a visa to visit and document both China and the Soviet Union. In 1971, she made the film Behind the Veil filming the cloistered world of a harem in Dubai.
The latest book of her work Eve Arnold’s People was published in 2009 and in December 2010 she had a headline grabbing exhibition Marilyn by Eve Arnold in London’s prestigious Halcyon Gallery which presented very intimate portraits of Monroe that Arnold produced for the Magnum agency while she was filming The Misfits. In an anecdote from that experience Arnold is quoted as saying,
She was capable of anything. Once I was working with her and she had this interview coming up and we were running late. When the journalist came in, Marilyn was wearing this negligee, it was transparent, and she had a hair brush in her hand. She asked the journalist ‘is it okay if I brush my hair while you’re here ?’, and of course the journalist said she was okay with it. Then she moved to pick up her notepad and next thing she sees, Marilyn is brushing her pubic hair. She asked me ‘you’re not taking pics anymore ?’ and I answered ‘no Marilyn, no’….