Eve Arnold, OBE, Hon. FRPS (née Cohen; April 21, 1912 – January 4, 2012) was an American photojournalist. She joined Magnum Photos agency in 1951 and became a full member in 1957. She was the first woman to join the agency.
Early life and career
Eve Arnold was born Eve Cohen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the middle of nine children to immigrant Russian-Jewish parents, William Cohen (born Velvel Sklarski), a rabbi, and his wife, Bessie (Bosya Laschiner). Both of Arnold’s parents were grudgingly accepting of her choice to abandon medicine to study photography. She married Arnold Schmitz (later Arnold Arnold) in 1941. Her interest in photography began in 1946 while working for Kodak in their Fair Lawn NJ photo-finishing plant. Using a gifted Rolleicord, she began to photograph her city with a fresh humanitarian perspective. Over six weeks in 1948, she learned photographic skills from Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. Studying photography under Brodovitch, she produced a collection of photos from Harlem’s vivid fashion show scene. The collection published the series in the London Illustrated Picture Post in 1951. Although the series launched her career, she later wrote in a diary entry that the editor of the magazine changed her captions and reversed the message of her photographs to fit a racist narrative. She then became interested in African American migrant workers suffering housing discrimination in Long Island. She became the first woman to join the Magnum Agency, becoming a full member in 1957. Arnold spent time covering republican press events, the McCarthy hearings and explored the taboo subject of birth. She was well aware of the underrepresentation of women photojournalists and the position of women celebrities in the public eye. Arnold explored these ideas about women in her full-length photo book The Unretouched Woman published in 1976.
Arnold’s images of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits (1961) were perhaps her most memorable, but she had taken many photos of Monroe from 1951 onwards. The intimate candid-style photos achieve Arnold’s goal to show Monroe’s anxieties about being the subject of constant media attention. She befriended Monroe, Joan Crawford, and many of her other subjects in order to write about them and photograph them better. Her previously unseen photos of Monroe were shown at a Halcyon Gallery exhibition in London during May 2005. Travel characterized much of Arnold’s work, as she took an interest in photographing the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States as well as in the rigid Soviet Union and in China. Arnold always strived to go deeper with her photography; she even returned from some shoots with cigarette burns on her clothing from a disapproving crowd. She produced a film in 1971, Women Behind the Veil, focusing on Arabian harems and hammams. She also photographed famous figures such as Queen Elizabeth II, Malcolm X, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford, and travelled around the world, photographing in China, Russia, South Africa and Afghanistan. Arnold left the United States and moved permanently to England in the early 1970s with her son, Francis Arnold. Several of her famous photographs were featured in Look, Life, Esquire, Harpar’s Bazaar, Geo, Stern, Paris-Match and Epoca. While working for the London Sunday Times, she began to make serious use of colour photography. However, Arnold’s preference continued to be black and white. She alternated between glamorous photos of cinema stars and portraits of everyday life and experiences. The most challenging task for Arnold was to make the mundane interesting. Her interest in “the poor, the old, the underdog” continued as her photos captured the gentle realness that Arnold portrays as characteristic of all humans. The relationship of trust between Arnold and her subjects is visible in the natural lighting and posing in her photographs.
In 1980, she had her first solo exhibition, which featured her photographic work done in China at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. In the same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers. In 1993, she was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and elected Master Photographer by New York’s International Center of Photography. Arnold was one of only five women in the catalogued touring exhibition Magna Brava. Rejected as a Vietnam war photographer, she found photographing South African Shantytowns also critiqued and drew awareness to the injustices in the world. She also photographed disabled veterans, herders in Mongolia, and women in brothels.
In 1960, Arnold did a series of portraits of American First Ladies including Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pat Nixon. In 1997, she was appointed a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Media Museum (formerly the Museum of Photography, Film & Television) in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2003.
She lived in Mayfair for many years until her last illness, when she moved to a nursing home in St George’s Square, Pimlico. When Anjelica Huston asked if she was still doing photography, Arnold replied: “That’s over. I can’t hold a camera any more.” She said she spent most of her time reading such writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann and Leo Tolstoy. One of her last photos were of her grandson when he came to visit her for a photography lesson in 1994. She describes in her diary entry of that day the bond between photographer, subject, and a camera that is necessary for a portrait. She continued to stress her style of simplicity in photos with natural lighting and lack of posing and embellishments. She sums up “curiosity” as a one-word description of her driving force that led to her career of which was described as a friend as “a one-woman cultural exchange”.
Arnold died in London on January 4, 2012, aged 99.
This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.