Skip to content

BERT STERN (1929-2013)

Bert Stern was born in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1947 and at the age of seventeen, Stern took a job as a messenger and clerk in the mailroom of Look Magazine. Art Director Herschel Bramson recognized his talents and encouraged him to pursue a photography career. After learning as much as he could about art history, Stern left to become the art director at Mayfairmagazine, where he started taking his first photographs. He was drafted in 1951 and talked his way into an army job as a motion picture cameraman in Japan.

After being released from the army in 1953, Stern was hired to photograph the print advertisements for Smirnoff Vodka.  These images were considered to be a striking breakthrough in style, as they looked more like editorial photography than advertising. Utilizing a huge and lavishly equipped studio, Stern experimented with many unconventional techniques, including videotape, screen-printing, photo-offset combinations and computerized printouts.  He continued to photograph the advertising campaigns for brands such as Canon, Dupont, Pepsi-Cola, US Steel, and Volkswagen. His work appeared in VOGUE magazine and other publications throughout the 1960's and he was recognized as the prototype of the fashion photographer as media star, with his images of models and celebrities becoming icons for the next generation of fashion photographers.

Stern’s best-known body of work is a collection of over 2,500 photographs taken of Marilyn Monroe over a three-day period six weeks before her death. As they were the last posed photographs taken of Monroe, the portfolio has come to be known as "The Last Sitting".  The photographs were commissioned by VOGUE magazine, and several of the images appeared in a commemorative issue following Monroe’s sudden death.  A book containing these photographs, including copies of proofs over which Monroe had written comments or crossed her own image out with lipstick, was published in 1992 as Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting.

In 2011, the feature-length documentary Bert Stern: Original Mad Man was released, in which Stern spoke candidly about the joys and tribulations of his career as a photographer.

Bert Stern died in 2013.

Back To Top