Tuesday, 2 July 2013


My obituary of the photographer Bert Stern, best-known for his 'Last Session' shots of Marilyn Monroe, is in today's Independent, buy the paper paper or link to it here. Obviously, the Marilyn pictures are the big talking point--I avoided getting into detail about whether or not Stern, as I said in the piece a notorious womaniser, and Marilyn actually consummated a different sort of relationship, and Stern himself hinted but never said, but I probably should have mentioned that he laid on a lot of Dom Perignon along with the other acoutrments, and in many of the shots Monroe looks decidedly heavy-lidded.

The Smirnoff ad is indeed remarkable, and he also made a fantastic one with Buster Keaton for the vodka. There was a long essay on the bleeding into 'art' of commercial photography, and the way fashion is the cutting edge of that bleed. In the modern art world, where ironic commentary on one's own work is more important than the work itself, the advertising theme might well be considered part of the art--so the ironic commentary of the pun on 'dry' in dry martini is just as artistic as the representation of heat, or the geometric inversion of glass and pyramid. Stern, it should be said, appears to have been a master of using the emotional power of red--see the Lolita poster.

I would also have liked to have said more about Jazz On A Summer's Day, which is a truly memorable document. It is a very mainstream picture of the jazz world in 1958, as you might expect with Willis Conover emceeing, but the performances are brilliant, and it does include Thelonious Monk, in a trio with Roy Haynes on drums. Jazz in that period, particularly the five years following, might well be my favourite music, period, and watching the film puts you in the mood for a little bit of the harder revolution that was to follow. In terms of creating an impressionistic picture of Newport at the time, it's perfect, right down to the America's Cup races going on in the background. Beats the hell out of High Society.