I just read about the death, two days ago, of Bert Stern (3 October 1929 – 26 June 2013), the commercial and celebrity photographer who made his name in the 1960s as being one of a group of photographers who revolutionised commercial photography from being merely illustrative to being a valid form of conceptual art.

stern_smirnoffOf his commercial images, a shot of a martini glass with an inverted image of the Pyramid of Giza showing through the glass, done for a Smirnoff advert, remains one of his most enduring commercial images.

A self-taught photographer, Stern’s style was generally clear and uncluttered. His best-known work was probably his 3-day shoot (for Vogue Magazine) with Marilyn Monroe shortly before her death in 1962. The shoot resulted in some 2500 images, including some of the most enduring images of the iconic actress. (Years later, he did a similar session with Lindsay Lohan, trying to replicate the success of his Marilyn images, but these were widely criticised as being exploitative and tawdry.)

He also photographed many other famous models and actresses from the 1960s onwards, another of his most recognisable images being an evocative portrait of 13-year old actress Sue Lyon posing with a red lollipop and heart-shaped sunglasses – this became the poster-image for Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film version of Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’.


Stern’s work is featured in the International Museum of Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

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