De Dienes, Andre

French-American (1913-1985)

Born in Transylvania (now Romania), Andre de Dienes left home at age 15 and traveled through Europe by foot until he arrived in Tunisia, where he supported himself through a series of odd jobs, while teaching himself to paint and take pictures. De Dienes soon craved more cultural stimulation and moved to Paris in 1933; he formally studied art and freelanced for the Associated Press and for several publishing companies. Soon after, he decided he wanted a career in fashion photography and – with the help of Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich – emigrated to the US, where he shot for Esquire, Vogue and Life.

This world, though, was too restrictive for him and he struck out on his own to produce nude images. De Dienes never retouched his photos, which meant he had to develop the patience to work slowly and capture the naked body as beautifully as possible. As such, he would work with the same model for several weeks at a time. In 1945, he hired a 19-year-old Norma Jean Baker (later to become Marilyn Monroe) for her first modeling job. They traveled across the US, shooting as they went, and soon became lovers. Their working relationship lasted until 1953; De Dienes’ images of her graced several magazine covers and are considered to be some of the best shots of the young starlet.