Marilyn On My Mind

Posted by on Aug 03 2012 | History, Photography

This weekend marks the 50th Anniversary Memorial for Marilyn Monroe. Below is a note from our Communications and Visitor Engagement Intern, Zachary Overacker featuring images from our Philippe Halsman collection.

Marilyn Monroe has been an American icon for generations. It’s been 50 years since she has passed – on Aug. 5, 1962 — yet she’s still on magazine covers, the center of the hit NBC show Smash, and becoming an icon to a whole new generation, again.
When you think about it, it’s kind of crazy that someone who passed away several decades ago can still be as relevant as Marilyn Monroe is today. Perhaps it’s because she was the first sex symbol and one of the first huge movie stars. Or, maybe it’s her aura, or her story and how human she was that makes her so popular and so important. I assume it’s a combination of all of those.

Currently in the Eastman House exhibition "See: Untold Stories" is Philippe Halsman's MARILYN AT THE DRIVE-IN, from the portfolio HALSMAN/MARILYN, 1952, printed ca. 1981 © Philippe Halsman

The other day in a store check-out line I noticed that not only was Marilyn on a magazine cover but she was on the majority of the magazine covers. After years of not understanding the obsession with Marilyn, I am starting to finally get it. It’s not just that she was beautiful; she was a huge persona but also human and complicated. She could be this sex icon and at the same time have the innocence of the girl next door. She was really the total package.

MARILYN WITH BARBELLS by Philippe Halsman, from the portfolio HALSMAN/MARILYN, 1952, printed ca. 1981 © Philippe Halsman

It is through this TV show that I’ve developed my interest in (crush on) Marilyn. I remember in grade school girls had pictures of her in their locker or notebook and though I thought she was beautiful I didn’t fully understand the fascination. Now that I better know her story I understanding why she remains iconic … and real.

Marilyn had a very vibrant side to her, but she was also lonely and had a lot of problems, perhaps stemming from her childhood. As an adult Marilyn had problems with drugs, as well as affairs. And yet when watching her movies or staring at her glamorous portraits, you may never know the sad side.

At George Eastman House, you can see her realness in a display of Marilyn photographs by Phlippe Halsman, part of the exhibition See: Untold Stories (up through Sept. 23). Whether it’s the photo of her lying down on a bench lifting weights or just one of her messing around listening to music, each photo is intriguing. I can’t think of anyone else even close to as photogenic as she was. - Zachary Overacker

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