Arts & Culture

Iconic Marilyn Monroe Photos to Go Up for Auction, Alongside the Camera That Took Them

Photographer Douglas Kirkland remembers the shoot fondly: "It was just myself, the camera, and Marilyn."
IMAGE DOUGLAS KIRKLAND
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Back in 1961—less than a year before she died—Marilyn Monroe posed for what would become one of her most memorable photoshoots. It started off simply enough, with Monroe, surrounded by stylists and assistants, posing in a dress. "She started working with me for about 15 minutes and said, 'This isn’t going to work,'" the then-27-year-old photographer, Douglas Kirkland, told WWD. "She came out of the dressing room and said, 'I know what we need—I need to be alone with this boy.'"

He complied. "It was extremely intimate," Kirkland, now 85, told Christie's. "It was just [me], the camera, and Marilyn." He admitted, "This was, of course, very exciting for me in my young man way." The photographs, first published in Look magazine, became instant classics.

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One of two prints from Kirkland's shoot set to hit the auction block
Photo by DOUGLAS KIRKLAND.

Now, over 50 years later, Kirkland has decided to part with the camera he used that day: a 1959 Hasselblad 500C, with two Carl Zeiss lenses. It's set to hit the auction block at "The Exceptional Sale" at Christie's on October 29, alongside two magazine backs (additional pieces of the camera), and two limited-edition archival prints of photos from the shoot. Altogether, the lot is estimated to go for $200,000 and $300,000.

Why has our interest in these images lasted all these years, enough for a collector to shell out hundreds of thousands on a camera? "On that night, as a very young photographer, Douglas Kirkland was able to capture that unusual mix of fragility and sexual bravado that made Marilyn so endlessly fascinating," Becky MacGuire, the auction's Sale Director, tells Town & Country. "He really connected with the tragic star, and I think you sense that in his photographs."

MacGuire adds, "It’s our unique privilege to occasionally be able to offer things that bring history alive, things that allow us to almost touch the past. This is one of those times."

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A behind-the-scenes photo from the shoot
Photo by COURTESY CHRISTIE'S.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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