Eve Arnold’s photos were able to tell the story of the world with a personal approach, the only tool the American photographer considered indispensable.
To understand her importance in the history of photography, it is enough to remember that Eve Arnold was the first woman, together with Inge Morath, to join the prestigious Magnum Photos agency in 1951.
Determination, curiosity and, above all, the desire to escape from any stereotype or easy categorisation have enabled her to produce an eclectic body of work: from portraits of the great stars of the cinema and show business to investigative reportages where she has tackled themes and issues absolutely central to the public debate of yesterday and today.
The legendary photographs of Eve Arnold. The work, 1950-1980
During her career of over fifty years, Arnold worked as a freelance photographer for numerous magazines and travelled the world, documenting the lives of ordinary people, artists and politicians.
Speaking of Eve Arnold’s legendary photographs, Robert Capa said:
“Metaphorically speaking, her work falls somewhere between Marlene Dietrich’s legs and the bitter life of migrant workers in the potato fields”.
It was a shoot dedicated to the German actress, obtained almost by chance, that turned the spotlight on her talent, giving her access to show business.
EVE ARNOLD’S CELEBRITY PORTRAITS
Arnold was particularly known for her portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Malcolm X and Queen Elizabeth II.
His best known shots are those featuring Marilyn Monroe, with whom he formed a true artistic partnership.
The relationship with Marilyn was born during the filming of the movie “The Seven Year Itch” and allowed for the creation of images that have gone down in history, above all for having told the story of the actress’s personality hidden behind the diva’s façade.
Eve Arnold demonstrates an extraordinary ability to get in tune with her subjects, breaking down barriers and reticence, also through the iconic portraits of personalities such as Joan Crawford, who lets herself be immortalised during endless beauty rituals, or Malcolm X, who lets her follow him at close range during the most important Black Muslim gatherings and of whom she creates a portrait that immediately becomes a true icon.
EVE ARNOLD’S PHOTOS THAT MADE HISTORY
The history of photography has been made by both her shots of members of the black community and her images of the claims of African-Americans that were gaining ground throughout the United States in the 1950s.
His first work was a dense and smoky reportage dedicated to the numerous fashion shows in Harlem, organised in the total indifference of the white fashion world. Produced as an exercise for a course at the New School for Social Research in New York, taught by the famous Art Director of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, Alexey Brodovitch, the project turned Eve Arnold into one of the most sought-after authors by international newspapers and magazines.
Eve Arnold’s photos are revolutionary both in their choice of subject and style: moving away from the glossy aesthetics of the magazines of the period, Eve Arnold depicts spontaneous moments behind the scenes, the wait before the show, the impatience of the audience.
The work is realised in low light situations and, not wanting to use flash, Eve Arnold spends hours in the darkroom to enhance the intimate atmosphere of the settings, laying the foundations of her particular style where the theatricality of natural lighting and emotional closeness to the subjects are essential.
The report was considered too scandalous for American newspapers, so much so that it was published in 1951 by the London-based ‘Picture Post’ and later by several European magazines. This was to be followed by numerous other reportages from all over the world, such as the ones shot in China in 1979 and the impressive project on the use of the veil in the Middle East, initiated after attending a speech by the Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba urging women to remove their veils in order to enter modernity: places and themes capable of opening up debates on today as well.
WOMEN IN EVE ARNOLD’S PHOTOS
Eve Arnold’s career is to all intents and purposes a hymn to female emancipation.
Her subjects are in most cases women: workers, mothers, children, divas, nuns, models, students, immortalised without ever slipping into stereotypes or easy categorisation, with the sole intention of knowing, understanding and telling. This principle guides her even in the most intimate and delicate photographs, such as those taken inside the maternity wards of hospitals throughout the world, a subject to which she constantly returns in order to exorcise the pain she suffered with the loss of a child in 1959.
“I don’t see anyone as ordinary or extraordinary. I simply look at them as people in front of my lens” – Eve Arnold
Arnold was a pioneer in documentary photography, particularly in her images that captured the experience of women around the world. She photographed women in various situations, such as in their factory work, in their roles as mothers and wives, and as political activists.
During her career, Arnold has received numerous awards, including the Order of the British Empire in 2003 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Centre National de la Photographie in Paris in 1998. He has also published numerous books on photography, including ‘In America’, ‘The Unretouched Woman’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’.
THE EXHIBITION EVE ARNOLD. THE WORK, 1950-1980
CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia di Torino proposes, from 25 February to 4 June 2023, another legend of 20th century photography: Eve Arnold.
Eve Arnold The Work, 1950-1980
CAMERA – Italian Centre of Photography, Turin
25 February – 4 June 2023
The exhibition, curated by Monica Poggi and realised in collaboration with Magnum Photos, consists of around 170 images, many of which have never been exhibited before, and presents the photographer’s complete oeuvre from her first black and white shots of New York in the 1950s to her last colour works, taken at the end of the century.
The selected works deal with themes and issues such as racism in the United States, women’s emancipation and the interaction between the world’s different cultures. Although his worldwide fame is undoubtedly linked to the numerous shoots on the sets of unforgettable films, where he portrayed the great stars of the period from Marlene Dietrich to Marilyn Monroe, from Joan Crawford to Orson Welles.