CNN Photos

The ladies and the drinks

Editor's note: Photographer Bert Stern passed away on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, his wife Shannah Laumeister confirmed. He was 83.

Laumeister, who secretly married Stern in 2009, also directed a documentary about his life, titled “Bert Stern: Original Mad Man.” 

"Bert was a simple man, a man who lived and died by his feelings. He loved and captured millions of photographs which both sustained and moved him in a very personal way," Laumeister told CNN.

"I can tell you that he revered every person he ever photographed, and kept his images close to him for his entire life. He left the world with the unforgettable beauty of so many images, and though he is gone and that loss is so hard, the images will live on forever."

The following story was published in March.

Bert Stern always shoots what he likes, and what he likes are women.

The photographer had the most in-demand iconic beauties of the 1950s and ’60s in front of his camera, including Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. Possibly most memorably, he captured Marilyn Monroe six weeks before she died for a series later known as “The Last Sitting.”

In the series, a naked Monroe is flitting around a room at the Hotel Bel-Air, posing with a martini glass or sheer scarf in some of them. In many, she appears drunk.

“She was beautiful, funny, sexy, interesting,” Stern told CNN.

Despite years of working with celebrities, Stern said he still gets star-struck. Liz Taylor wowed him, as did Lindsay Lohan.

Stern recreated the memorable Monroe shoot with Lohan for a New York Magazine spread in 2008.

"I wanted to shoot one of these bad girls,” he said, mentioning Paris Hilton as well. “She’s interesting.”

He told the magazine he suspected there would be more depth in the Lohan shoot. “It was very similar, déjà vu you might say, like revisiting an old street,” Stern was quoted as saying.

Stern’s name may be most associated with portraits of beautiful women, but his initial professional mark was in advertising. Stern broke into the photography industry in the 1950s by shooting commercial images with an editorial rather than advertising look, leading to the distinctive look of advertising’s Golden Age.

His career was launched after he worked with Look magazine art director Hershel Bramson to illustrate Smirnoff’s ad slogan, “Driest of the Dry” in 1955. They conceived photographing a martini glass in front of an Egyptian pyramid so there would be an inverted triangle in the liquid in the glass.

Stern flew to Cairo to capture this.

“It was pretty crazy,” Stern told CNN about circling the world for a shot, “but easier than building a pyramid.”

This photo launched Stern, 25 at the time, to the forefront of the commercial photography industry with a new edge.

Filmmaker Shannah Laumeister directed a documentary about his life, titled “Bert Stern: Original Mad Man,” referring to the leaders of the midcentury ad revolution. The documentary title came from an interview with Jerry Della Femina, who founded the ad agency Della Femina Travisano & Partners in the 1960s.

“I thought I was too young, and now I think I’m too old,” Stern said of his career.

His next subject of choice would be supermodel Kate Upton.

- Lauren Russell, CNN

Stern’s photographs will be on exhibit at the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York from April 4 to May 11. “Bert Stern: Original Mad Man” will be playing at various theaters from April 5 until the end of May.