Photographer Eve Arnold once remarked “I would prefer photography to be a folk art – cheap and available to everybody, rather than elevated to mandarin proportions created through an artificial scarcity.” It was that quote, seen by Arnold’s grandson, Michael Arnold, who now manages her archive, that inspired a collection of prints released as posters that are selling for just £30.
Arnold is among the most recognizable names in 20th-century photography. Born in Philadelphia in 1913, Arnold didn’t become a photographer until she was in her 40s. She went on to become as well known for her photographs of Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe, as her photojournalist coverage of the Civil Rights movement and documentation of life across the globe.
The only formal training Arnold received was a course with Alexei Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. On assignment for that course, Arnold spent time photographing the fashion industry of Harlem in 1951, a largely ignored facet of the fashion industry. Those photographs were run the following year by Picture Post magazine, as no US publication would take them. That series of photographs became Arnold’s break. In 1962, she moved to London, where she would live until her death in 2012.
In the 1950s, she became the first woman to join the Magnum agency, whose co-founder, Robert Capa, described Arnold’s body of work as landing “between Marlene Dietrich’s legs and the bitter lives of migratory potato pickers.”
Now, a series of 15 photographs, a number of which have never been seen, are being released as posters by Arnold’s estate to keep her work alive and to introduce the late photographer to new generations. According to Michael Arnold, the release and its mission reminds him of stories Arnold told him of her first show in London where she sold prints of her work at a fraction of their worth so art students could afford them; however, Arnold later found out that art dealers had snapped up the discounted works only to turn around and resell them.
The poster release exemplifies the breadth of Arnold’s works. One image shows a Mongolian woman training a horse in a beautiful green pasture while another captures a loving and playful moment between a Cuban fisherman and his family. Civil Rights Activist Training shows a Black woman reading her book as she’s trained to ignore abuse and Baby’s First Five Minutes captures an intimate moment that speaks to Arnold’s self-described obsession with birth.
A series of unseen photos from the set of Misfits, the 1961 film, offer a different side to Marilyn Monroe, who was not only a fan of Arnold’s but also a friend. The photos show Monroe working, at times unaware that her photo is being taken. “There is something about the one where she’s in the car,” Michael Arnold told The Guardian. “It’s not the typical glamour shot you often see with Monroe, there’s an ordinariness about it … she is going about her craft, she’s learning her lines. There’s something about the composition which makes it special.”
“The themes she photographed are ever-present, if not more so – racism, sexism, inequality … not to mention the humanity she brought to her work,” continued Michael Arnold. It’s that humanity emanating from each and every photograph that ties Arnold’s body of work together in a stunning fashion. And now, you can bring Arnold’s work into your own home.
The poster collection can be found at evearnold.com/posters and are available from today 11th of March.