USA. Nevada. While on location in Nevada, John Huston spent long hours, sometimes nights, at the gambling tables in Reno. Marilyn MONROE went with him once, toward the end of filming. The Misfits. 1960. © Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos
Known for being the first woman photographer to join the Magnum Photos agency, Eve Arnold was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1912.
Arnold started her career in photography in 1946, when she worked for Stanbi Photos, a photo-finishing plant in New Jersey. Formed in photography by Alexei Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in New York, Arnold joined Magnum Photos in 1957. Five years later, she moved to London where she continued to work.
"She will perhaps be best remembered for her exceptional photographs of people; the famous, politicians, musicians, artists and the unknown," says her agency. "Her intimate, sensitive and compassionate ten 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."
In her last interview with BJP, in 2000, she said of Magnum that it had been very important in her career. "I had a sense of belonging to a group who were doing good things - a quite remarkable bunch of people in the very beginning- and I was part ot it and it was good to be there, helping to shape photojournalism, not only for yourself but for other people in the field." The Magnum photographers were the first to pioneer the use of their own copyright, for example. "If we contributed anything that's what we did," she told BJP. "We refused work unless we owned the copyright, and there were times when we were very broke and we needed the money."
Her first photo story documented fashion shows in segregated Harlem, New York in the 1950s and was the work that would gain the attention of Henri Cartier-Bresson and her inauguration into Magnum Photos.
Working for Magnum, Arnold quickly gained respect for her work. However, she was keen to point out that, as a female photojournalist in a male dominated field, she never felt restricted by her gender. Speaking to BJP, she said: "It was a big plus to be a woman working in those days. Men liked to be photographed by women. It's never been a problem. There were very few of us in the beginning and a couple of guys at Magnum were into patting me on the head, saying 'There, there little one,' which I found patronising. But although I do think that women think differently and have something to offer that men don't have, I don't believe you can recognise the different between women's photographs and men's."
Arnold was also one of the first westerners to be granted a visa after America and China established diplomatic relations, says Magnum. In China, during two three-month trips, she would complete, in the late 1970s, a project on daily life in the much-misunderstood country.
During the Vietnam War, Arnold expressed the wish to cover the conflict to the Sunday Times art director Michael Rand, who kept saying: "you can't run fast enough." She told BJP that while she had "done difficult assignments working in Harlem when it was dangerous to go near it; working alone in the mountains in Tibet and Afghanistan;" she had never done war.
Instead, Arnold's career focused on people and personalities as disparate as Malcolm X, Joseph McCarthy, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawdord and Richard Nixon. But each time, she would challenge the convention of portraiture with an intriguing insight into the human condition.
During her long career, Arnold published more than 15 monographs. Later this month, TeNeues will release All About Eve, a 216-page retrospective of her work, including some of her most iconic images, as well as many never-before published images.
When BJP asked her how much power photojournalists actually have to change the things they see, Arnold leaned towards Sarah Brown, BJP's former features editor, bringing her hand up to eye-level, a tiny gap between forefinger and thumb, "very little," she said. "You know in the beginning we thought we were going to change the world. I think people live in so much visual material these days, billions of photographs annually, that they grow numb after too much exposure. But it's hard. You see something and it's your profession and you want to do something about it."
In 1990, Arnold gave a series of short interviews to BBC Radio, which can now be found here.
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