Eve Arnold, the first female photojournalist to join the esteemed Magnum Photos agency, died last week in London at age 99.
Arnold, who was known for her intimate portraits of stars like Marilyn Monroe as well as her groundbreaking documentary work, started freelancing for Magnum in 1951. She became a full member of the agency in 1957.
“She’s very well known for the famous people that she photographed, but I don’t think that does her service,” said Elliott Erwitt, a Magnum photographer since 1953. “Because that’s easy stuff. She did tough things.”
Born in 1912 to Russian immigrant parents in Philadelphia, Arnold grew up knowing hardship first-hand. She brought that awareness to her work documenting social injustice around the world.
“She was interested in the human condition in a way that a real journalist should be,” said Erwitt, 83. “She was fair-minded and open to all kinds of possibilities. She was unencumbered by prejudices.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, Arnold turned her lens to the civil rights movement in the United States and traveled widely, documenting life in China, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Erwitt first met Arnold while she was a suburban housewife in Long Island, before the start of her photography career.
“I think she was eager to break away from the chores of a housewife and into something more interesting,” he said.
She began to take pictures while working at a photo-finishing plant in New Jersey in 1946 and later studied photography with art director Alexey Brodovitch in New York.
Despite working in a highly male-dominated industry, Arnold rose to prominence thanks in part to her ability to get close to her subjects, often becoming a trusted friend.
She once said: “If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”
- Brett Roegiers, CNN