Bert Stern / Marilyn Monroe’s The Last Sitting: evanescence and photographic completion
I’m wary of writing about this particular book/s or photographs, for the sake of respect for those passed.
With that in mind, beyond a very brief background I’ll be concentrating on the story of a book and my visiting of it than a story of a life.
This is literally the last photographic sitting by the iconic actress Marilyn Monroe and over three days Bert Stern took 2571 photographs; something of a feat in such pre zero and ones lightcatching days.
In 2000 Schirmer / Mosel Verlag published a somewhat monumental 464 page book that collected every last one of those photographs.
To repeat a phrase that I seem use a fair bit around these parts, it is now out of print and costs a penny or two if you should wish to purchase or peruse it.
However, a few years back, via the magic of library systems (albeit and unfortunately not an overtly publicly accessible one) I was able to sit down in a quiet basement and undertake the task of taking in the book.
I was only to have the one chance and moment to do so – the book had travelled a fair distance from another collection of such things and was considered too rare and precious to be allowed to leave the walls of the building.
It is a tribute in a way to what a photography book can do – the gathering and representing of such a large body of work. Almost too much and too many images to comprehend at one sitting.
Now, it seems like an almost magical, unobtainable object. The situation in which I viewed it, the quality of the work and the scale of it all contributed to that, as may have he human emotion/story behind it but it’s more than that.
There was a magic at work in this Last Sitting and the book somehow captures that. Evanescence is a word that come to mind.
Tip of the hat to you Miss Monroe and indeed Mr Stern, wherever you both may be.