Portrait Photographer- Eve Arnold

Whilst Assignment One is still quite a while away, I do like to begin preparation and research early! Whilst researching portrait photography, I discovered Eve Arnold; an american photojournalist, and an amazing one at that!

Arnold was born in Philadelphia, and was one of NINE children! She started off as a photography superviser, and was one day given a camera by her boyfriend. It was at this point that she became determined to make a name for herself, and decided to apply to the Magnum Collective. This is where it all began…

She was accepted and soon became famous, specifically for photographing many iconic figures, but she found herself just as fascinated with documenting the lives of the poor and needy. To her there was no difference between the two, no boundaries or classes. In an interview she said; “I don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary, I see them simply as people in front of my lens.(1)” What a beautiful statement! And this should be true for every single photographer- our most famous picture could be that of a celebrity, or simply that of a married couple on their wedding day; but it doesn’t make the people, or the picture itself any less extraordinary!

Arnold was an expert at making her subject’s feel totally comforatble around the camera. I plan to do a portrait photo shoot of a little girl in her home for my first assignment. I am quite hesitant about this, and still need to figure out how to approach her as a little person. I want her to feel at ease with me so that her personality shines through in my photographs. In an interview, Eve Arnold said the following about capturing people in their homes; “…you want to go as deeply into them as people as you can, but usually what happens if you’re careful with people and if you respect their privacy, they will offer you part of themselves that you can use, and that is the big secret. It has more to do with the relationship of the photographer to the subject than it has to do with anything else that might be happening.(2)”  This is a key point that I have taken from Eve Arnold. Forming a relationship with your subject before and during a photoshoot is hugely important. This is the only way in which we can truly capture a person’s heart and soul on camera. I intend to make this my main priority during my portrait photoshoot for Assignment One.

Eve Arnold is a true inspiration, but what she was most famous for was her photographs of Marilyn Monroe. It is these photographs that I am going to look at in further preparation for the first part of this course, and especially for Assignment One. I have seen so far in my notes that there are a variety of ways in which to compose a subject in the frame. Arnold shows this in her portraits of Monroe. Below you will see examples;

(3) Face, cropped in close. This is one of my favourite compositions in portrait photography. The focus of the entire image is of course, on the eyes. A person’s eyes are so descriptive, and show such emotion, that this tightly framed composition works beautifully to show this off.


(4) Head and Shoulders. I love this beautiful relaxed shot of Monroe- this is exactly my style! This photo, and Monroe’s smile seems real and genuinely beautiful. The head and shoulders composition is a classic, and still shows great emotion and detail in the subject’s face.

Marilyn Monroe Photographed By Eve Arnold In 1955

(5) Torso. Again, this relaxed and seemingly candid style is one that I love! The composition framing of half the body gives the viewer a completely different view of the person, as we now see their shape, and specifically their hands- which can give away a huge amount about a person. Awkward hands can show shyness, or uncomfort around the camera, so this is something to watch out for.

Beautiful Marilyn Monroe Photos By Eve Arnold (25)

(6) Full figure. Full figure shots are great for telling a story, as we get a good idea of what the person is doing. If the person is doing some sort of an activity, a full-bodied shot is essential. I have found from past experience that subject’s like full body shots, as they often go to a lot of trouble to choose an outfit (including shoes!), and they want that effort to be seen. This is a small point about full figure shots- but one that I like to remember.


I have learnt a great deal about portrait photography from Eve Arnold, and definitely feel that it has prepared me a little more for Assignment One.

(1) WIKIPEDIA, Eve Arnold, Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_Arnold [Accessed 28/03/13]

(2) BBC RADIO 3 (2013), Transcript of the John Tusa Interview with Eve Arnold, Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/arnold_transcript.shtml [Accessed 28/03/13]

(3) EXPRESS AND STAR, Time to re-evaluate Marilyn Monroe’s personal style, Available from: http://www.expressandstar.com/lifestyle/blogs/2011/11/24/time-to-re-evaluate-marilyn-monroes-personal-style/ [Accessed 28/03/13]

(4) WHERE SAN FRANCISCO, Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold, 1955, Available from: http://wheresanfrancisco.tumblr.com/post/29488779391/collectingmarilyn-marilyn-monroe-by-eve-arnold [Accessed 28/03/13]

(5) VINTAGE EVERYDAY, Beautiful Marilyn Monroe Photos By Eve Arnold, Available from: http://www.vintag.es/2012/01/beautiful-marilyn-monroe-photos-by-eve.html [Accessed 28/03/13]

(6) BIBLIOKLEPT, Marilyn Monroe, Available from: http://biblioklept.org/tag/marilyn-monroe/ [Accessed 28/03/13]


One thought on “Portrait Photographer- Eve Arnold

  1. Pingback: The Theory of Portraiture | HansPhotography

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