Bert Stern who died Tuesday age 83, may not have been the first photographer to capture Marilyn Monroe, but he was definitely the last to secure a professional session with the screen icon. In July 1962, the young Bert Stern was given access to three sittings in order to capture a relaxed portrait of the playful and seductive, actress. Just a few weeks later she would tragically die. What had begun as an eight-page spread for Vogue Magazine became an epitaph, and has entered the photographic archives as Marilyn’s Last Sitting.
In the months before her death in August 1962 Monroe attended President John F Kennedy’s birthday party, where she famously sang ‘happy birthday Mr. President’. Following the Madison Square Garden appearence, she was fired from the set of the film Something’s Got to Give, because of her poor attendance record. It was at this point she needed a high profile publicity stunt. The Vogue shoot with Bert Stern was part of this damage limitation exercise . Monroe was found dead in her bed in California in August 1962. The cause of death was recorded as ‘acute barbiturate poisoning’, resulting from a ‘probable suicide’.
He also photographed some of the world’s most beautiful women including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot. Bert’s love affair with the other side of the lens has placed him in a unique position among the most iconic portrait photographers of the 20th century.