Focusing in on Eve Arnold: Gone But Photography Not Forgotten

Often, when you think of the most influential photographers of all time, a man’s name usually springs to mind: Mario Testino, David Bailey, Nick Knight, Cecil Beaton or Terence Donovan. It is interesting how we forget about the women who have managed to capture some of the most enduring images of all time.

Eve Arnold was some such woman. She did not fear entering a male dominated sphere. Arnold was one of the first women photojournalists to join Magnum Photography Agency in the 1950’s. It was the pictures she took of Marilyn Monroe that have made her world-renowned. However, it was almost fated that Arnold should take pictures of a woman who was known for her relationships with men. Arnold’s perspective of Monroe in the Nevada desert on the set of The Misfits was one of a sweet, innocent and apprehensive young woman dressed down in a white shirt and denim jacket. In other pictures by Arnold, Marilyn appears naturalistic, without the usual epithets of her Hollywood self. Is it possible that Arnold lifted some of Marilyn’s mask by capturing her without an adoring audience?

She was a strong advocate of women and capturing their relationships with each other. Her other famous photographs include ones of the Civil Rights Movement in America, the Queen and a front row filled with women at Fashion week in Paris in 1977. It is often said that a picture tells a thousand words, with Eve Arnold, a story is communicated far beyond the lens. Her photography forces you to engage in the subject’s world. There is a powerful black and white one taken by Arnold; known as Bar girl in a brothel in the red light district, Havana, Cuba, 1954, showing a girl in a thoughtful repose with her head resting on her clenched hands and an almost empty bottle of liquor beside her on the bar. It is a moment that resonates as it portrays a women’s issue that is still a hot topic today.

The female photographing pioneer, Eve Arnold, may have left us but her pictures certainly have not.

Caroline Barnes

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