I wanted to dedicate a project to Marilyn Monroe’s relationship with photography, because her image is probably the most extensively reproduced. The inspiration for the approach I took came from my deep interest in the famous photograph that Richard Avedon took of her in 1957 in his New York City studio. He caught her as she seemed sad, vulnerable, and deeply immersed in her thoughts. What makes it the most interesting image of Marilyn Monroe, is that Avedon was able to capture her as a fragile and tormented individual, not the glamorous shell of the actress that everyone saw. It’s this facet of hers that I was interested in exploring: Marilyn Monroe versus Norma Jean.
Marilyn Monroe’s career was a dream come true. It was the quintessential American Dream, but as we all know, her life turned out to be an unhappy one.
Norma Jean started as a model and became one of the most important Hollywood actresses of all time by creating the identity of the playful blond bombshell, Marilyn Monroe. She loved to be photographed, and in return, the camera loved her. Several of the photographers who shot her fell in love with her and her image. Her connection to photography was most significant, because her sexy photos helped promote her image as a movie icon, as well as immensely boost the photographers’ careers. For most of them, these photos became their lifelong achievement.
My concept was to create portraits of women made up as Marilyn Monroe and dreaming about her. I did not want to photograph women that specifically resemble her, but instead I searched for models that had those two things in common: a passion for the pop-culture icon and a clear understanding of her fragility.
To be able to extract her vulnerability, and not just the extremely glamorous and playful aspect of the actress, I asked my sitters to close their eyes, relax, and deeply think about the fragile side of the actress. During this meditative experience, and with the sound of classical music playing in the studio, my sitters were able to forget the surroundings, and let themselves become the vulnerable Marilyn Monroe in front of my camera.
Visually, the state of having the eyes closed connects these women to one another and brings an ethereal feeling to the series, thus recalling the mystical and impalpable side of the actress.
No one, not even her close circle of friends, seemed to understand Marilyn. Her life, through the media, seemed to be pretty dysfunctional. For the line between dreaming and reality to fade, and to reflect her obviously tormented soul, I created these images with a blur so that, like the real Marilyn, the closer you get to these “Dreaming Marilyns”, the more they escape you.
Marilyn Monroe lived the American Dream. The American Dream didn’t make her stronger; instead, it made her more and more fragile. Sadly, it is probably the dream she wanted to reach so badly, that destroyed her. She was, and still is today, an American icon. Her image will certainly live forever and her beauty will continue to inspire us.
Marilyn 5, Double Exposed
By combining the technique of a double-exposed negative and a blown-up contact-sheet frame, this montage emphasizes the dreamy effect of a hazy photograph that seals into reality, the ghostly image of a volatile Marilyn.