Photographers You Should Study

Bert Stern: The Original Madman Behind the Camera

American Photographer

Bert Stern

Quotes | Videos | Books

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Bert Stern – Wikipedia

Bertram “Bert” Stern [1929 – 2013] was an American photographer known for his dynamic and innovative fashion and celebrity portraits.

He emerged in the 1960s as a leading figure in the “New Wave” of fashion photography, challenging traditional conventions with his spontaneous and energetic style. Stern’s work often featured unconventional poses, bold lighting, and a sense of intimacy that captured the essence of his subjects.

He was particularly renowned for his portraits of Marilyn Monroe, taken just weeks before she died in 1962, which became emblematic of both the photographer’s artistry and the enduring allure of the star.

Stern’s work was published in numerous magazines, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Esquire, and he collaborated with fashion icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Andy Warhol. His legacy as a master of fashion photography continues to inspire generations of image-makers.

Read the full Biography below.


Photography Quotes From Bert Stern

I think all my pictures are ideas, and they are made into images inspired by Bert Stern.
A quote that says when a portrait evokes a feeling, then you've got something.
What makes a great model her need her desire and it's exciting to photograph.
📸 Did you know?
Bert Stern was a skilled ping pong player and often challenged his subjects to matches.

Videos about Bert Stern

📸 Did you know?
Bert Stern was once arrested for jaywalking in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Books by Bert Stern

Norman miller marilyn monroe bert stern.
Marilyn monroe on the cover of photografie.
A man and woman kissing each other on the cover of a magazine.
📸 Did you know?
Bert Stern was a skilled interviewer and had a knack for putting his subjects at ease.

Biography of Bert Stern

Early Life and Education

Bert Stern, born on October 3, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York, was a self-taught photographer whose name became synonymous with inventive and vibrant celebrity and fashion photography. 

Growing up in New York City during the Great Depression, Stern’s early life was modest. Despite the lack of formal education in photography, Stern showed an innate talent for visual arts from a young age.

Career Beginnings

Stern’s career in photography began in earnest after his service in the U.S. Army. During his time in the military, he was assigned to work in the photography department, which further honed his skills and interest in the medium. After completing his service, he landed a job in the mailroom at Look Magazine. His time at Look was pivotal; it introduced him to the world of professional photography and publishing.

Stern quickly moved up from the mailroom to the art department, where he had the chance to work under the guidance of art director Hershel Bramson. Bramson recognized Stern’s talent and encouraged his photographic pursuits, providing him with opportunities to develop his style.

Rise to Prominence

In the 1950s and 1960s, Stern’s career took off as he became one of the leading fashion photographers in America. His work was characterized by its creativity, playfulness, and a knack for capturing his subjects’ essence. He shot for major magazines, including Vogue, and his images helped define the visual culture of the era. 

Stern’s commercial work also included iconic advertising campaigns, like his work for Smirnoff, which helped revolutionize the look and feel of advertising photography.

The Last Sitting with Marilyn Monroe

One of Stern’s most renowned works is ‘The Last Sitting,’ a collection of photographs taken of Marilyn Monroe for Vogue magazine in 1962, just six weeks before her death. The shoot took place at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles and lasted three days, during which Stern took over 2,500 photographs of Monroe.

These sessions are particularly notable not just for their sheer volume and the iconic status of their subject, but also for the intimate and vulnerable portrayal of Monroe. The images range from playful and glamorous to poignant and deeply introspective, showing a side of Monroe that few had ever seen. 

This shoot became a defining moment in Stern’s career and left an indelible mark on the history of photography. The photographs from this session were later compiled and published in a book titled “Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting.”

Innovations and Style

Stern’s photography was known for its innovative use of technology and color. He was a pioneer in the use of color in fashion photography, which was largely dominated by black and white images at the time. His ability to use color, unconventional angles, and novel compositions set him apart from his contemporaries and made his work distinctive.

Personal Life and Challenges

Stern’s personal life, however, was marked by challenges, including struggles with addiction and financial difficulties. Despite these struggles, he continued to produce compelling work throughout his life.

Later Years and Legacy

In his later years, Stern continued to work, maintaining his status as a celebrated photographer. His work was the subject of several exhibitions and retrospectives, and he was the feature of the 2010 documentary, “Bert Stern: Original Madman,” which explored both his professional legacy and personal life.

Bert Stern passed away in New York City on June 26, 2013. His death marked the end of an era in fashion and celebrity photography. Stern’s work remains highly influential; his innovative techniques, bold use of color, and ability to capture the spirit of an era have left a lasting impact on the world of photography.

His images, especially those of Marilyn Monroe, continue to be celebrated for their artistic and cultural significance.


Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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