On Friday, July 15th, I joined The LA Fashion Magazine at a presentation of Some Like It Hot – a photographic exhibition and never-before-seen footage of Marilyn Monroe, taken by the legendary photographer Milton H. Greene. This exclusive event at the Morrison Hotel Gallery hosted notable attendees such as photographer Timothy White and Joshua Greene (Milton H. Greene’s son), both of whom I had the pleasure of interviewing in the midst of the event.
The legendary work of Milton H. Greene traces back to 1953 when he first photographed Marilyn Monroe for a layout in Look Magazine. Greene began his work with Marilyn Monroe at the perfect time – a moment when Marilyn Monroe’s career was at its peak as she was known as “one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars”. Throughout the years, while Milton H. Greene continued to enhance his career as a photographer with Marilyn Monroe as his subject, he also toyed with the idea of exploring a documentary approach with his work. Even though Greene was limited compared to the technological advances that we endure in modern times, he was nevertheless able to take his 16mm film and create what we admire today as the never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage of Marilyn Monroe. Milton H. Greene is renowned for his remarkable portraits of many of the legendary icons who have made an impact within the entertainment industry such as Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Groucho Marx, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, Judy Garland, Giacometti, Lauren Hutton, Alfred Hitchcock, Romy Schneider, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Ava Gardner, Steve McQueen, Claudia Cardinale, Paul Newman, Lauren Becall, Dizzy Gillespie, Catherine Deneuve, and Norman Mailer. However, the relationship and trust that he built with Marilyn Monroe throughout his years of working with her made his photographs of Monroe the most powerful and impactful, earning him his place as one of the most celebrated photographers in the whole world.
Milton H. Greene’s son, Joshua Greene, goes into more depth about his personal insight on his father’s work and about the strong bond between Marilyn Monroe and Milton H. Greene.
What was the inspiration behind each icon that Milton H. Greene chose to photograph? Did he choose his subject based on their popularity at the time and their point in their careers, or did he choose his subjects based on some unique feature that he saw within them?
I think he definitely saw at least one unique feature in all of his subjects. As far as Marilyn Monroe, Milton never had any sort of relationship with her prior to photographing her. Marilyn happened to see some of his work that he had done for a magazine and she said, “I want him to photograph me.” One thing led to another, and the relationship grew and so did the collection.
Why do you think Milton H. Greene’s photographs of Marilyn Monroe have become his more popular photos and the collection that is talked about the most?
It all has to do with the long-time relationship that the two had with each other. They became extremely close friends – almost like family, which made for the best results. Their friendship shows in the photos, and I think people see that and admire that aspect of Milton’s work with Marilyn.
Can you recall any pieces of advice that your father has ever given you as far as photography or just creativity in general?
Yes, he always gave me advice when it came to photography and had me working with him from a young age. I started working with my dad in the dark room since the day I turned 11 years old. He taught me the ropes and from there, I progressed. I owned my first company at around age 19 or 20 and have continued to develop my work.
Do you aspire to take on the same career as Milton H. Greene?
Yes, definitely. Photography is a form of art. Even though I’m following in my father’s footsteps, I acknowledge that the process is so different now. I’m always inspired when I look back at some of my father’s work and compare it to my own. Back then, it took so much time and detail to edit a photo and to make it look beautiful. I can appreciate the accessibility that I have to more advanced technology than my father was exposed to.
How would you say your father has inspired you throughout your career and your life in general in any way?
He really benefited me by having me start working with him and shadowing him at such a young age because now I’m able to take all of those years of experience and use it to further improve my own work.
Timothy White is a very well-known photographer who’s work consists of photographing A-list celebrities in the entertainment industry, similar to the work of Milton H. Greene. Timothy White works out of New York City, and has photographed icons such as Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Julia Roberts, Eric Clapton, Outkast, and Keith Richards. Timothy White’s work is known to be some of the most high-end photography. Being that it resembles the work of Milton H. Greene, it was important to admire and acknowledge the work of Timothy White throughout the event.
What made you realize that you wanted to get into photography? What drew you toward pursuing a career in photographing people within the entertainment industry in particular?
I began to get involved in photography and taking pictures when I was in high school, but, at the time, I really wanted to pursue a music career, so that was my main focus. After high school, I ended up at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I decided to shift my focus entirely toward photography. After college, I went to Rolling Stone with some of the work that I had done, and got hired right away. My career took off from there. Even when I was more interested in music than photography, I was always interested in the entertainment world, so the fascination just carried on into my current work.
How have you been inspired by or impacted by the work of Milton H. Greene?
I’ve always admired the work of Milton H. Greene. Of course, he was before my time, but I think our work definitely has some similarities since we were both involved in the entertainment industries and photographing celebrities.
How would you say your work is different from Milton H. Greene’s work?
I think the big difference between my work and Milton H. Greene’s work is the technological advances that continue to arise. During Milton’s time, he obviously didn’t have access to the type of tools that are available now. Also, my work is probably more contemporary and modern.
Who has been your favorite celebrity to photograph so far, and why?
My favorite people to photograph are the ones whom I feel the most comfortable with and whom feel the most comfortable with me. That being said, building relationships is a huge factor when trying to photograph a person because relationships build trust, and when you have trust, you’re able to produce beautiful work.
Although the first showcasing of the gallery on the 15th was closed to the public, the images are now available for the general public to view in the Morrison Hotel Gallery at the Sunset Marquis Hotel. The photos will be available until July 24th.