Friday, 13 January 2012

'Marilyn', Andre de Dienes

Despite me currently trying not to buy so many books (no more bookshelves left and quite frankly better things I could be spending my money on at the moment), I treated myself last week to a Taschen Box Set about Marilyn Monroe. I love books and one day hope to have a room just for all my books. In other words, a library. I definitely have too many books but can't seem to part with a single one of them. I have books that my grandparents bought me when I was a child, books that I bought to help me write my dissertation about Batman (I know I'll never read those again), Travel books, Interior Design books, Autobiographies, Biographies, Film Books, Art Books, books that I inherited after my father passed away that have been in our family for almost a century. To me they are part of my history and after photographs probably the next thing I would save in a fire. So in a nutshell, I really really love books.  And my new Taschen book is my new favorite.

It finally arrived yesterday (thanks Amazon) and at £17.49 was an absolute bargain. I justified the purchase by telling myself that it was 50p cheaper than the bottle of delicious Chardonnay that I wont be guzzling tonight so it sort of cancelled itself out. 'Marilyn' by Andre de Dienes comprises two books in a box, one a photography book and the other memoirs by de Dienes of his relationship with Marilyn.

'Marilyn', Andre de Dienes.

The memoirs book, presented as they were typed by de Dienes on his typewriter and containing some of the photos he describes along with other artifacts.

I can't profess to being a huge Marilyn fan but I did read one of my favorite books of all time a few years back, 'The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe' by Donald Wolfe. It's based on events surrounding her death, some people might call it a conspiracy theory, but by the end of the book I was totally convinced by it. It's a pretty chunky tome, but I remember reading it in a week and not being able to put it down, it was a real gripper! Most people are familiar with the theory that the Kennedy's had something to do with her demise but this book, in my opinion, seemed to prove it. As with most books about Marilyn it left you feeling really sad but this book is something quite different.

'Marilyn' is essentially a love story as the memoirs part is all about de Diens first meeting with the 19 year old Norma Jeane Baker and the first photography trip he took her on, her first paid trip as a model. He immediately fell in love with her and seemed to be in love with her for his entire life. He loved her before she was the most famous woman on the planet and before her struggle with prescription medication and alcohol. He fell in love with an innocent, carefree young girl, full of life and full of hope for her future. Its fascinating to get a glimpse of her like this rather than the exploited tragedy that she became.

I'd never heard of Andre de Dienes before I saw this book but it turns out that he is a bit of a photography legend. He grew up in Transylvania but at the age of 15, after the suicide of his mother (she threw herself down a well), he left his native country and travelled to Europe alone, mostly on foot! After finding himself in Tunisia, he bought his first camera  and began taking the photos that would change his life. After some time spent in Paris selling his photographs to the Associated Press Agency, he moved to New York and began work for Esquire, Vogue and Life. On his time off he travelled the country photographing the native Hopi, Navajo and Apache Indians. For many of the Indians this was their first encounter with a camera and some of the photos he took on these personal trips have been hugely overlooked as a record of American history. 

In the 1940's he broke away from fashion photography, moved to Hollywood and began to concentrate on his true passion. Nature and nudes! The rascal. While focusing on his private passion he freelanced for many of the Hollywood Studios and photographed some of the most famous film stars of the day (Brando, Tayor, Fonda, Astaire, Bergman etc etc). However it was while searching for a young model to photograph (hopefully nude) on a road trip he had planned that he found the aspiring Norma Jeane through a model agency. So, after 5 weeks driving through some of California's most stunning landscapes together, he not only returned home with some of the most beautiful photographs I have seen of Marilyn Monroe, but he also fell into a deep love that was to last his lifetime. 

All photographs by Andre de Dienes.
These 2 photographs were taken on the first road trip.

These photographs were taken at a slightly later date on another trip they took together. Note her hair has now changed to the blonde that was to become one of her trademarks.

This is my favorite picture from the book. 

These 2 photographs were taken at a later date still and show a more abstract direction from de Dienes, yet still drawing on his passion for nature.

Anyway a great book for anyone with an interest in Marilyn Monroe, Andre de Dienes, photography or just another book worm.


  1. Hi. Found your post via the LAB showcase and while I can't profess to being a fan of MM, those photographs are captivating. She looks so happy and full of life and I'd now love to take a look at the rest of the pics. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for your comment! It really is an interesting and beautiful book. Definitely worth the money I think. xx