The art world mourns an exceptional loss today as it is announced that world-renowned photojournalist Eve Arnold has died aged 99.
The first woman to be admitted to the famous photographic co-operative Magnum Photos in 1957, Arnold was best known for her images of Marilyn Monroe. She was highly regarded for her intimate and remarkably informal photographs of the actress, whom she befriended while documenting her career.
“Being a woman in what was a very male dominated world gave her access to celebrities who were normally wary of photographers. Eve was able to produce portraits which conveyed far more about her subject than those taken by her contemporaries.” said Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society. He also attributes Arnold’s success to “her empathic and friendly nature, and tenacious work ethic."
Arnold was born in April 1912, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an impoverished Russian Jewish family and went on to photograph portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, Marlene Dietrich and Malcolm X. Travelling the world to countries including China, Russia, Afghanistan, South Africa and South America she also photographed migrant labourers, New York bartenders, Cuban fishermen and Afghan nomads. Her equally valued, although less widely known, contribution to photography concerned the Middle East—the result of a significant time of her life spent documenting general life in the United Arab Emirates.
This period would produce Arnold’s only film, which she shot in 1971 after being granted privileged access to film wedding preparations for the marriage of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. Her 50 minute color production Behind the Veil offered rare and intimate insight into the Dubai royal court as it recorded the wedding through the eyes of the bride’s handmaid, Nora. An accompanying series of photographs is credited with documenting significant changes in the lives of the region’s women.
Speaking 40 years later at a 2009 Dubai exhibition of this collection—which includes portraits of the royal family, scenes of the preparation of the feasts, dancing and celebrations as well as behind the scenes footage –Saeed Al-Nabouda, Chief Projects Officer, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, said “Behind the Veil is part of our heritage of Dubai, the UAE and the wider Arab World. It celebrates and pays tribute to the culture of our nation. The wedding is a defining moment in our history.”
In 1946 while working in a New York photo-finishing plant, Arnold’s talent was soon recognised. After becoming one of the star photographers for Life magazine, in the early 1960s she moved to London, where for many years she worked for The Sunday Times. A fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, in 1995 she was named Master Photographer by New York's International Center of Photography. In 2003 she was granted an OBE, for services to photography, and in 2009 received a lifetime achievement prize from the Sony World Photography Awards.
In a statement Magnum said: "She will perhaps be best remembered for her exceptional photographs of people; the famous, politicians, musicians, artists and the unknown. Her intimate, sensitive and compassionate 10-year collaboration with Marilyn Monroe has cemented her as one of the most iconic portrait photographers of our time, but it is the long term reportage stories that drove Arnold's curiosity and passion."