Bert Stern, the fashion and art photographer known for his pictures in Vogue and Look magazines in the 1950s and ’60s, died at his home in New York on Tuesday at the age of 83. While celebrated for his skills as a compelling ad man and a master portraitist of major Hollywood film stars, Stern was perhaps best known for shooting the famous “last sitting” of Marilyn Monroe, at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, two months before the actress passed away.
[Image via Staley Wise Gallery]
Ranging in their degrees of solemnity and playfulness (with no shortage of nudity), the pictures have been shaded, in hindsight, by collective guilt and confusion about Monroe’s death, which was pronounced a suicide but remains unresolved.
Stern’s is one photograph in which the facts of a celebrity’s non-fictional life story (which for Monroe was full of abuse, neglect, and overexposure) have over time transformed pictures into something much more powerful and lasting than a vanity portrait. It is one of large handful of photographs from the 1960s that have truly been enriched, over time, by the difference between what we knew then and what we know now. Here are some of the other images that have come to define the decade in our collective memory.