It has been said that Marilyn Monroe is the most beautiful woman in the world– of her time, and ours. For this iconic mid-20th century sex symbol there continues to be an almost insatiable demand for her many photographic and other images through a career in the public eye of around 15 years. From the beginning, in nearly every photographic image, Norma Jeane Baker (or Mortenson)/Marilyn Monroe exuded an irresistible natural beauty and sexiness. Marilyn was the girl next door and glamour’s Queen. The world recognized that she had a special and seemingly irreplaceable affinity for the camera as a model, celebrity, and movie star. Marilyn’s ability to communicate her radiance by way of the photographic image lifted her personal and physical qualities into a universal language and appeal. After 19-year-old Norma Jeane was discovered during World War II working in a factory on behalf of the war effort until Marilyn Monroe’s tragic and untimely death in August 1962 at 36 years old, the myth of Marilyn Monroe is defined through the lens of the still camera as much as her star qualities and trajectory as an actress in motion pictures. These images from Marilyn Monroe’s lifetime of modeling in front of the still camera hopefully works to tell the story of a special love affair between model, photographer and lens that is Marilyn’s special gift to the world.
Norma Jeane in 1945.
Norma Jeane portrait. Photographer unknown.
Norma Jeane in portrait by Richard C. Miller.
Norma Jeane. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.
Amateur model. Photo of Norma Jeane by David Conover, c. 1946.
Marilyn sweater girl. Photograph by David Conover.
Norma Jeane among the foliage. Photograph by Andre De Dienes.
Marilyn, the girl next door. Photo by Andre De Dienes.
Norma Jeane draws in the sand. Photograph by Andre De Dienes.
Norma Jeane. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.
Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe in 1946. Photograph by Richard C. Miller.
Marilyn Monroe in her first modeling job. Industry show hostess.
Norma Jeane in gloves. Photograph by Edwin Steinmeyer.
Glamour photograph of Marilyn Monroe by Edwin Steinmeyer.
Marilyn in 1946. Unknown photographer.
Marilyn’s image is featured in an advertisement for Nesbitt’s orange drink in 1946.
Marilyn in color publicity photograph by John Michle.
Marilyn becomes a bleach blonde for the first time. Photo: H. Maier Studio.
Marilyn in her first cheesecake shot. Photo by Earl Moran.
Marilyn’s “girl next door” image transformed. Photo: Earl Moran.
Marilyn in a photograph with artist Earl Moran. Photo: Joseph Jasgur.
Marilyn poolside. Unknown photographer.
Marilyn in a red bathing suit.
Marilyn in a red-striped bikini.
Marilyn in a head shot, c. 1947.
Marilyn Monroe in publicity shot, 1949. Photo: László Willinger.
Marilyn in a gorgeous publicity shot.
Marilyn in a publicity head shot.
Marilyn golfing. Unknown photographer.
Marilyn in t-shirt and rolled up jeans atop a shiny Cadillac in 1946. Photo: Richard Whiteman.
Norma Jeane at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Photo: Joseph Jasgur.
Marilyn in floral bikini. Fox Studio publicity photograph.
Marilyn with Ruffles the dog. Fox Studio publicity photograph.
Marilyn in an early Fox Studio publicity photograph.
Marilyn modeling in a fashion show. Photo: Larry Kronquist.
Marilyn in 1950. Photo: J.R. Eyerman.
Favorite model at the Pacific Coast Antiques Show.
Marilyn Monroe in Life, 1950. Photo: Ed Clark.
Marilyn, California coast, April 1951.
Cover girl Marilyn Monroe, Look, September 9, 1952.
Classic Marilyn Monroe, Life, April 7, 1952. The talk of Hollywood.
Marilyn in New York, 1952. Photo: Eve Arnold.
Marilyn in a park with a book of Irish literature, 1952. Photo: Eve Arnold.
Modern Screen, December 1952. Photo by Fox Studio publicity.
Marilyn Monroe for Modern Screen, 1952. Photo: Gene Kornman, Fox Studio.
Marilyn Monroe at the Hollywood Bowl with photographer Bruno Bernard, July 1953. Photographers loved that the camera loved her — and that Marilyn loved the camera back.
Marilyn in Beverly Hills, Fall 1954. Photo: Ted Baron.
Marilyn never stopped modelling for the camera, 1957. Photo: Milton H. Greene.
Marilyn Monroe breaking the ice in this promotional color photograph on the train for Some Like It Hot. She plays Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk, the ukulele player and singer in an all-women’s traveling band. Upon its release in the spring of 1959, the Billy Wilder black-and-white film became an immediate smash hit with audiences and critics alike and remains one of the all-time great comedy film classics.
Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable at the premiere of How To Marry a Millionaire in November 1953. Made by 20th Century Fox, the American romantic comedy starred Lauren Bacall along with Monroe and Grable as three resourceful gold diggers in New York City. It was the first film ever to be filmed in the new CinemaScope wide-screen process, although released shortly after The Robe that was also filmed in CinemaScope. These two films were the top earners for the studio that year and both in the top ten of highest-grossing films of 1953. The premiere Of How to Marry a Millionaire took place on November 4, 1953 at the historic art-deco Fox Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. The Los Angeles landmark was renamed the Saban Theatre in 2009.
Two shots from Marilyn Monroe’s first photo session with 31-year-old photographer Milton H. Greene in September 1953. Greene had come out to Los Angeles to photograph Marilyn who had been working on River of No Return, a Technicolor American Western, directed by Otto Preminger and co-starring Robert Mitchum. The 20th Century Fox film was the first CinemaScope picture made in Canada though upon its release in late April 1954 critics were divided as to whether it was the rushing waters and jagged peaks of Jasper and Banff National Parks — or Marilyn Monroe — that was more blessed by nature.
Marilyn on crutches in August 1953 following her leg injury during filming on location for River of No Return.
Marilyn returned to California in September 1953 from Alberta, Canada still with a damaged leg to shoot indoor/raft scenes for River of No Return. Marilyn was relying on acting coach Natasha Lytess so much for direction that Otto Preminger had Natasha banned from the set.