Arnold, Eve

American (1912-)

For Eve Arnold, photography was a way out of poverty. Raised by Russian-Jewish immigrants, she dreamed of being a dancer or writer, but found a source of income by working at a photo-finishing plant in NYC. From there, she studied briefly with Harper’s Bazaar art director, Alexei Brodovitch, but couldn’t afford continued schooling and so began to teach herself. Her first paid assignment was shooting a fashion show in Harlem. A small, Jewish girl among Blacks, this assignment could have been daunting. But Arnold used her diminutive stature and genuinely kind persona to get close to her subjects. She carried this intimate posture with her throughout careers at both Life and Vogue, allowing her to catch celebrities and political figures in unposed shots: Queen Elizabeth, Malcolm X, Marlene Dietrich and American First Ladies. Marilyn Monroe trusted Arnold more than any photographer, resulting in a large body of sympathetic and protective images of the film icon, which portray her as a person, rather than an object.  

In 1951, Arnold joined Magnum Photos, was the first woman nominated for full membership and became a member in 1957. Through her involvement here, Arnold became more interested in traveling the globe and chronicling world events. In the 1960s, she moved to England and began working for the Sunday Times, where she first shot in color. While there, she chronicled apartheid, the plight of veiled women in the Middle East, political prisoners in China, and the lives of impoverished Cuban families; again, her humanitarian bent told these stories in a way uniquely her own. Arnold was elected Master Photographer in 1995, the world’s most prestigious photographic honor, but has spent her recent years reading the Russian novelists, as it is difficult for her to hold and operate a camera.