June 26th, 2013

Obituary: Photographer Bert Stern, Creator of Marilyn Monroe’s “Last Sitting,” 83

© Schirmer-Mosel/photo by Bert Stern

© Schirmer-Mosel/photo by Bert Stern

Bert Stern, the celebrity and fashion photographer best known for the 1962 photo shoot with Marilyn Monroe known as “The Last Sitting,” died at home in New York City on June 25, The New York Times reports. He was 83.

Born in New York City in 1929, Stern went to work in 1946 at Look magazine as an assistant to art director Hershel Bramson. While at Look, he became friends with Stanley Kubrick, who was then a photographer at the magazine. From 1949 to 1951, Stern was the art director at Mayfair magazine, then he went to work at the ad agency LC Gumbiner. In an interview with  T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Stern explained that it was during his work art directing ad campaigns that he first began shooting his own photos. He opened his own studio in 1954.

His friend Kubrick hired him to take stills for his movie, Lolita, released in 1962. That same year, Stern spent three days on assignment for Vogue photographing actress Marilyn Monroe in a suite he rented at the Bel Air Hotel. During the sessions, Monroe wears little more than a scarf, a necklace and some bed sheets, burrowing in bed sheets. In an interview earlier this year, Stern recalled, “‘She picked up this scarf, looked through it, and it was transparent, she could see me. She understood right away, and said: ‘You want to do nudes.’ And I said, ‘Well that’s a good idea.’” Monroe died a few weeks after the session. Several of the images were published in Eros magazine.

In 1982, Stern published his photos, outtakes and contact sheets from the session as a book, Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting (published by Schirmer/Mosel).

His editorial and commercial clients included Vogue, Life, Glamour, IBM, Noxema and Revlon. His subjects included Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, Iman and Drew Barrymore.

Stern was the subject of a documentary released this spring, Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man, in which he candidly discussed how his affairs with women he photographed contributed to the break up of his marriage to the ballerina Allegra Kent. The documentary was directed by Shannah Laumeister, who first posed for Stern when she was 13.

Stern’s photographs have been exhibited at Staley-Wise Gallery in New York and many galleries worldwide. Stern also co-directed the documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. In 2006, the Art Directors Club inducted Stern into its Hall of Fame.