Every year on June 1, we remember the late, great Marilyn Monroe's birthday. Although it's been over half a century since her tragic death, Marilyn's legend and iconic image lives on. But behind that "Marilyn Monroe," the Hollywood creation, there was a sweet and fragile woman that no one captured as intimately as her friend, legendary photographer Sam Shaw. So today we celebrate the "real Marilyn" with a behind-the-scenes look at one of Shaw's portraits snapped on the beach in Amagansett, NY, in 1957. At the time, Marilyn had just married playwright Arthur Miller and was at the height of her career, in between filming The Prince and the Showgirl and Some Like It Hot. Shaw, who had shot many candids of his movie star friend, said the 1957 beach series "might have been my most difficult portrait, to get her to be genuine, as herself." For this shoot, he remembered how it was difficult for Marilyn to surrender to a natural, make-up free setting - the kind Sam Shaw always preferred.
"At first Marilyn tried to take control of the camera," said Shaw, who died in 1999. "When I balked she started laughing and said, 'What the hell, you're the photographer,' and started making fun of herself. 'Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously,' she said soberly and started kidding herself." To change her mood, Shaw started a call and response game with Marilyn. He said a word like "Aphrodite" and instantly she went into the classic Greek goddess pose. Shaw responded by throwing out more words for inspiration and began shooting what has become known as the Aphrodite series on the beach. "The moment she heard the camera click she charged the camera, her hands clutching her hair, over me, and fell laughing while I kept taking pictures," Shaw said. "She was, even at the end, as much a teenager as an adult." For more about Sam Shaw, visit the Shaw Family Archives. Visit "Marilyn in New York," an exhibit of rarely seen photos of Marilyn by Sam Shaw, on view in the 42nd Street/Bryant Park subway station and outside the Times Square subway station in New York City. And check out the exclusive Marilyn Monroe clothing collection featuring photographs by Sam Shaw at Macy's.
Photo by Sam Shaw © Sam Shaw Inc. licensed by Shaw Family Archives www.shawfamilyarchives.com