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Since the beginning of photography, there have been women who have achieved a high degree of success in the field, whether in the art world (Julia Margaret Cameron, Imogen Cunningham) or in the documentary arena (Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange). Even today, if you asked someone on the street to name a famous photographer, chances are many would say Annie Liebowitz before they’d think of Sebastiao Salgado or James Nachtwey.

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Paul Newman © Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Eve Arnold might not be as well known as some of her contemporaries, such as Helen Levitt and Inge Morath – but she was a photographer of enormous range, empathy and toughness, as demonstrated in the new volume EVE ARNOLD’S PEOPLE (Thames & Hudson). Starting in the 1950s and continuing to the turn of the century, Arnold photographed both the famous and the obscure – from Malcolm X to a sad prostitute in Havana, from Marilyn Monroe to migrant workers on Long Island.

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Malcolm X © Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Despite the female photographers who preceded her, Arnold entered the profession at a time when there weren’t many women in the business. She launched her career by accident in 1943, when, bored of domestic life, she responded to a job ad for “an amateur photographer” to work at a printing plant in New Jersey. By 1950, she was shooting photo essays on a fashion show in Harlem and the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan, which gained her entry – the same year as Inge Morath – to the pretigious Magnum photographers’ collective. They were the first women to be admitted.

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Queen Elizabeth II © Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

In the early 1950s, Arnold caught a lucky break when she met Marilyn Monroe, an up-and-coming starlet. In an interview with the BBC, Arnold recalled of that time that “When we met, we were two young women starting out…Neither one of us knew anything about our craft and that was a bond between us, so I don't know where she ended and I began.” Over the next ten years, she became Monroe’s favorite photographer as well as her friend, leading to the kind of access that all photographers dream of. Generously reproduced here, her candid images of Monroe reflect the warmth between the two women.

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Marilyn Monroe © Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Clearly, though, Arnold was interested in people from all walks of life, not just celebrities, and her curiosity drove her far afield.  In the 1960s, she used her charm and smarts to get a rare visa to the Soviet Union, where she photographed such diverse subjects as nursery schoolchildren, a divorcing couple and a 110-year-old man. In the late 1970s, when she was 67, she undertook a physically grueling trip to China, where she spent six months documenting every aspect of life in the then-closed country. In that decade, she also traveled extensively around Arab countries to photograph veiled women for a series of eerily powerful portraits. 

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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

What comes across strongly in this book is the extent to which Arnold was loved by everyone who knew her, whether they were her colleagues, subjects or friends. Many people she photographed, including Isabella Rossellini and Anjelica Huston, went on to become close friends, and those two actresses have contributed fond recollections of Arnold to this volume.

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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

As an overview, EVE ARNOLD’S PEOPLE gives a great taste of this remarkable woman’s varied career. Being an overview, though, there are clearly some areas where the coverage of Arnold’s work is light. It would have been nice to see more of her work documenting apartheid South Africa in the 1970s, an assignment whose emotional intensity almost led her to a nervous breakdown. And, lovely as the essays by Arnold’s colleagues and celebrity subjects are, it would also have been nice to hear from Arnold in her own words, as in this fascinating interview she did with the BBC’s John Tusa.

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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson

These are small complaints, though. A thoughtful, far-ranging retrospective book, EVE ARNOLD’S PEOPLE is fulsome, moving and occasionally bawdy (as in an image of Vanessa Redgrave’s bare behind). It’s a testament to the empathetic eye and feisty spirit of a great photojournalist, one who just happened to be a woman.

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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson
  
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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson
  
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© Eve Arnold, courtesy of Thames & Hudson


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Paul Ruppert

25-09-2009

great people being people

hydri

04-10-2009

respectted sister i am from india i have clicked few photographs i want the world tio veiw,i just dont know how to shall i send you on your email ver nice photos taken from my mobile
please lewt me know
from your brother
ali haider
india

Rhonda

09-04-2010

Wow! I am awed by such beautiful work. Ms. Arnold was truly gifted and blessed, to have capture these precious moments. We are blessed to witness them.
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