Bert Stern: Original Madman

The Photographer Lifts the Veil On His Infamous “Last Sitting” With Marilyn Monroe

Sheer scarves and accessories were the only clothes featured in Marilyn Monroe’s “Last Sitting,” shot at the Bel Air Hotel by the legendary Bert Stern for Vogue magazine in 1962. This and other defining career moments are detailed in Shannah Laumeister’s forthcoming documentary Bert Stern: Original Madman, that charts the photographer’s rise to stardom in the 1950s as one of the pioneers of the golden age of advertising. Born and raised in Brooklyn and untrained as a photographer, Stern took a job in the mailroom at Look magazine where he befriended young staff photographer Stanley Kubrick, who encouraged him to pick up a camera. Stern would soon become known for his instantly iconic visuals for Smirnoff and Revlon campaigns but his obsession with women led him to become one of the most sought-after portraitists of his generation. With his laid-back, sensual style, Stern encouraged the starlets, models and actresses he shot to pose comfortably and openly. Now in his 80s, Stern continues to photograph women, including the documentary’s director Laumeister, who is herself a longtime muse. An accomplished actress as well as a filmmaker, Laumeister met Stern over 25 years ago when she was just 13 years old. Their friendship developed at first through his lens, then more intimately as she got older—and continues now as she turns the camera back onto him. 

(Read More)

Conversations (2)

    <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Marilyn is and always will be the defining turn in the history of the American female identity, from Helpless Damsel to Miss Independent. She is an example and beacon we all are privileged to learn from.
  • Mozartmike
    I believe from the very core of my heart,that Bert Stern:Original Madman is the finest thing I've ever seen on Nowness. I was so moved not only by Sterns' narrative,but by seeing once again the stunning beauty of Marilyn Monroe. How I miss her.

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to comment


    Cecilia Bengolea: Airtight

    Dancers Transform Paris Into A Science-Fiction Dreamscape In A New Short by Clara Cullen

    Argentinian dancer Cecilia Bengolea achieves physical feats in ballet-style stilettos, crab-walking through Paris’ backstreets in today’s abstract dance homage. Directed by filmmaker Clara Cullen, the short sees Bengolea joined by fellow dancers François Chaignaud, Anna Pi and Alex Mugler, shot in and around La Ménagerie studio where the artists have a residency. “She’s a great inspiration for me,” says Cullen of her muse, confidante and compatriot. “I met her in a squat in Paris five years ago and we instantly became friends—I understand her world, and that’s why I can do this kind of work with her.” Cullen studied Film at the Universidad del Cine in Buenos Aires and later trained under Spike Lee in New York and Werner Herzog in Los Angeles. Her more recent work includes fashion films for such brands as Max Mara and Nike. “It’s a mix of things we just created in the moment,” says Cullen of today’s short, which was partly shot with a VHS camera that Cullen obtained from eBay and splices grainy sci-fi architectural landscapes with scenes of dancers vacuum-packed in rubber fetish wear. “They stayed in that bag for an hour,” she explains, “which is physically and mentally very hard. The film has a lot of moments of hope and desperation—I just wanted to have that feeling throughout.”
    (Read More)

    HK Honey

    Hong Kong's Roof Top Bee Keeper Michael Leung Gives Us a Tour of His Hives

    High above one of the world's busiest and most congested city streets, urban apiarist Michael Leung runs his crusade for conscious local food, documented in Virgile Simon Bertrand’s inspiring photographs. Leung founded HK Honey as a way of using his background as a product designer to introduce the largely unknown concept of sustainable food to Hong Kong. Initially starting with just a few hives on the roof of his design studio in Ngau Tau Kok, Leung developed both a brand and a responsible community around his lifestyle ideology. “By putting bees in an industrial area we are showing a bit of optimism and that it's not too late to do something about environmental change,” he explains. “Our aim is to get people to know where their food comes from and to source and buy ethically, locally and seasonally.” With hives situated on a number of cafés and design stores throughout the city—including bespoke commissions for Louis Vuitton and Lane Crawford—HK Honey also creates harvestable roof gardens and promotes the development of inner city green space. Here NOWNESS reveals the environmental importance of honeybees.

    Did you know?

    It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends on the honeybee for pollination, including apples, almonds, avocados, blueberries and cranberries.

    There is an average of 49,999 honeybees per hive, and only one queen.

    Albert Einstein is believed to have said, “If bees disappeared off the surface of the globe, then men would only have four years of life left.”

    Most of the 20,000 bee species in the world, located in almost every region, are solitary. The honeybee is one of the only species that works together.

    China is the largest producer of honey in the world, estimated at 350,000 tons per year. However culturally it has not often been used as a sweetener. Even today in the interior of China, honey is only available in medicinal shops.

    To produce one pound in weight of honey, a hive of bees will fly around 55,000 miles. 

    A single honeybee produces just one or two teaspoons worth of honey in its lifetime, and visits 36,000 flowers to do so. 

    In October 2008 a large banyan tree located in Bangalore, India, made the world record for the number of beehives, with 575 in the one tree.

    Humans have been managing beehives to harvest honey for around 6,500 years.

    Approximately ten bee stings per pound of body weight would be lethal.

    (Read More)

Previously In culture

View Full culture Archive