Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, bore a heavy weight as the archetypal sex symbol of the 1950s and ’60s. Her highs and lows have all become legend: her high-profile marriages and splits from baseballer Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller; her secret affair and birthday-cake serenade with then-president John F. Kennedy; and her final, turbulent years before her early death from barbiturate overdose at age 36. Less discussed has been her bold decision to disrupt the film industry by co-founding her own production company, as well as her attempts to command agency over her own image.
Countless renowned photographers sought to capture the “real” Monroe, and she knew the power that the camera held. Today, we’re more aware that our favorite celebrities maintain a carefully crafted public image, but Monroe’s enigma still fascinates us. “There was no such person as Marilyn Monroe,” Richard Avedon once said of her. “[She was] invented, like an author creates a character.”
Here are eight famous photographers who captured the late, great comedic actress.