Bert Stern, the photographer best known for his physically and emotionally revealing photo series of Marilyn Monroe taken just weeks before her death, has died at the age of 83.
Stern died Tuesday at his Manhattan home, confirmed his longtime companion Shannah Laumeister, an actress and director of the recent documentary Bert Stern: Original Madman. No cause of death was given.
Born in New York in 1929, Stern was the son of a children's portrait photographer. He went on to serve as an Army photographer stationed in Japan during the Korean War.
Afterward, he worked as magazine art director and commercial photographer. Stern was one of that generation's photographers — alongside peers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon — who created iconic, arresting photos of the era for glossy publications. His clients ranged from Smirnoff to Spam. He also took the photos that became the memorable movie poster for colleague Stanley Kubrick's controversial film Lolita.
After an earlier marriage to model Teddy Ayer, Stern wedded renowned American ballerina Allegra Kent in 1959. The couple had three children, however the marriage later dissolved amid Stern's infidelities and drug addiction.
Though he photographed a plethora of famous faces over the years — including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote and Twiggy — Stern is most often recalled as the photographer behind The Last Sitting, Marilyn Monroe's final major photo shoot.
In 1962, Stern spent a marathon three days capturing images of the Hollywood starlet at the Hotel Bel-Air. Commissioned by Vogue magazine, the session resulted in more than 2,600 photos. Though undoubtedly alluring and sensual, the images show a world-weary Monroe. The actress had divorced third husband Arthur Miller a year earlier, had been fired from Something's Got to Give and was struggling with an addiction to prescription pills and alcohol.
Still, "she was so beautiful at that time," Stern recalled of the session — which included many photos of Monroe unclothed or nearly nude — in an interview with Newsday.
Six weeks later, Monroe was dead and Vogue eventually published the series as a tribute. Stern himself published the photos, outtakes and contact sheets from the session in his 1982 book Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting (republished in 2000). He recreated the famed shoot with actress Lindsay Lohan in 2008 for a New York magazine feature.
Stern's work is held in collections of individuals, art galleries and museums worldwide and his photos have inspired a host of exhibitions. In addition to his photography, Stern also directed the seminal 1959 doc Jazz on a Summer's Day, about the Newport Jazz Festival, with film editor and director Aram Avakian.
A funeral service is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday in New York.