“You never know what a photo can become, because people change,” explains Lawrence Schiller to The Independent. Schiller was destined to photograph some of the most iconic women of the 20th century. “I started taking photos in high school and, as you will understand, I took photos of soccer players and cheerleaders. There was one named Raquel Tejada, she was about two years older than me. After graduating I found out that she had changed her name to Raquel Welch. That’s how I photographed Raquel Welch before she was Raquel Welch ”, she says.
But the most iconic woman among the iconic women and with whom her name has been forever linked is Marilyn Monroe. Schiller has collected his entire history in the volume Marilyn & Me (Taschen). “In college I saw a cover of Time with Marilyn Monroe and I said to myself maybe one day it will be good enough to photograph it”. That day came shortly after starting to work for the most important publications of the moment, such as Paris Match, Sunday Times O Life.
Look It was one of the magazines he was trying to work for and one day he was called to photograph a French actor. It was Yves Montand, a rising actor who was considered the new Maurice Chevalier, French star of the musical cinema of the 20s and 30s of the last century. “I showed up at 20th Century studios, the co-star was doing a musical number. Who is it? I asked. Marilyn Monroe ”.
His dream was coming true at the time. Look Marilyn, this is Lawrence Schiller from Look Magazine«. “She turned, but not for me, but for the magazine,” he remembers. “In the 40s, 50s and 60s, magazines were the way famous people promoted themselves. The circulation of magazines then was three or four million, now it is all television and Instagram. He introduced himself and I didn’t know what to say and I blurted out “I’m the big bad wolf.” She looked at me and said: You don’t seem so fierce, but when you grow up you sure will be”.
The actress began to get ready in the dressing room and he to photograph her behind her. “Marilyn looked at me and said: you will not get a good photo from there, go to the corner, from there you will have a good photo.” Young Schiller obeyed, Monroe rolled onto his back and turned to where he was sitting. “With a single click with my Nikon I got the perfect photo, probably the best photo I took of Marilyn.”
Schiller realized, in that moment, that Marilyn Monroe knew more about photography and lighting than he did “and probably more than 99% of the world’s photographers, because she had grown up on the camera. Andre De Dienes, the famous Hungarian photographer who photographed her much younger, used to photograph her with a mirror next to his camera, so she knew how she looked at all times ”, assures the photojournalist. “After spending nearly 15 years being photographed by Dienes, Marilyn knew that light was everything, she knew how to look good on camera.”
«I have to show the world that I can be on the covers of all the magazines in the world »Monroe told Schiller
Foto: Lawrence Schiller.
The best known session
If Marilyn had shown Lawrence Schiller that she controlled photography, in the next session she had with her, she showed him that she was very good at handling the media and business. It was during a special session, during the last film that Marilyn shot, that Lawrence Schiller bonded forever with the actress by immortalizing her naked in some photos that went around the world surprising and shocking in equal measure.
Lawrence Schiller con Marilyn Monroe
“In 1962 Marilyn was making a movie with Dean Martin and Wally Cox for 20th Century, Something’s Got to Give, it was going to be a very interesting movie, and Paris Match sent me to photograph it. I already knew Marilyn, so I asked for the script to see the best scenes to shoot. Go see Marilyn at her house and you treat him with her, ”he says.
Schiller made a composition of what he wanted to photograph. But her ideas weren’t Marilyn’s, she had a plan. “We talked for a while and I told her about a scene but she said no: there is a scene in which I am wearing a nude bathing suit and I am in the water and Dean Martín sees me from afar. How do you see that I go in with a swimsuit but then come out with nothing? ”, Says the photographer. And I replied: Marilyn you have a problem. What problem? He said. You are already very famous and you want to make me famous ”.
Then Marilyn revealed the reasons why she wanted him to take those photos. “He knew I was a businessman, that he could trust me and that he could have the following conversation with me: Liz Taylor is making a movie for my own studio with Richard Burton and she takes a million dollars and 10% of the box office and is on the front pages of the whole world. I take $ 120,000 from the same studio, so I have to show the world that I can be on the covers of all the magazines in the world, “said Marilyn according to the photographer’s account.
He wanted to show the studio that he was worth as much as Liz Taylor. He put two conditions for when Schiller sold the photos to the magazines Liz Taylor could not appear on any page of the magazine and that they would not have the photos if she was not on the cover of the magazine. The magazines complied, Marilyn was on the cover of all the ones that paid for the photos and made Liz Taylor disappear from all of them.
The actress was experiencing the lowest moments of her career. The scandal of the publication of the photos cost him that the study fired her, although she was readmitted after mediation by Dean Martin. But the actress would not raise her head, the film was unfinished and Marilyn would commit suicide months later.
“You only have a millisecond and you have to focus your gaze, it could already be Marilyn Monroe or Lee Harvey Oswald”
Foto: Lawrence Shiller.
Kennedy was shot!
Lawrence Schiller’s career was not limited to this mythical photo shoot. The photographer has a valuable graphic archive with prominent figures from the world of cinema and politics from the 60s. In particular, Barbara Streisand is another of the divas who has photographed the most in her life, but in her archive you can see photos of Clint Eastwood, Tippi Hedren, Alfred Hitchcock or Sophia Loren. All of your images will go to the University of Texas in bequest form.
Among the political chapters that he had to live, the assassination of President Kennedy stands out. The news caught him at home in Los Angeles. “Kennedy was shot!” His wife told him. And without a word, he went to the airport and planted himself in Dallas on a flight full of journalists because Los Angeles was the city with the best connection. When they landed they learned that the president had died and that there was a detainee. They all went to the police station where Lee Harvey Oswald was.
“You only have a millisecond and you have to focus your gaze, it could already be Marilyn Monroe or Lee Harvey Oswald. It is not a matter of shooting hundreds of photos, it is a matter of finding the decisive moment that Henri Cartier Bresson spoke of. Sometimes you can’t find that moment, other times you find it ”, explains the photographer.
That moment It is the only thing that has not changed in the photograph. “When I was a photographer, there would be 100 photographers who were able to tell a story in the world. Now there are 400 million photographers who can tell a story with their iPhone. There is only one difference, photographers in the past understood composition and lighting, with an iPhone they don’t think about that, only at the moment ”, he concludes.
What is going to happen to the millions of photos that are taken every day around the world, where are they going to be kept, who will decide on them ”.
But in this technical explosion of photography what has been lost is the author. “The sad thing is that in the 50s and 60s when you took a photo your name was in the signature, so if you published enough people would know your work. Now billions of images and videos are taken and the personality of the photographer has disappeared to the general public. The future of photography is video ”, he says.
Although the big question that Schiller asks himself is “what will happen to the millions of photos that are taken every day around the world, where will they be kept, who will decide on them”.
His already have refuge in the University of Texas.