Bert Stern, Original Madman

Bert Stern, Original Madman

“I was just a kid who wanted to make out with Marilyn Monroe.” — Bert Stern

Year: 2011
Country: USA
Running time: 88 mins

Producers: Shannah Laumeister, Gregory McClatchy
Photography: Tony Hardmon, Shannah Laumeister, José Louis Mignone
Editors: Danny Bresnik, Piri Miller
Music: Starr Parodi, Jeff Eden Fair
Colour and B&W

With: Bert Stern, Allegra Kent, Dorothy Tristan, Shannah Laumeister, Suzie Parker, Duggal, Twiggy, Judith Crist, George Lois, Tod M. Volpe, Jerry Della Femina

Festivals: Amsterdam Documentary 2011

Marilyn Monroe, revelling in a haze of chiffon; Lolita, relishing a lollipop and playing peek-a-boo from behind heart-shaped sunglasses. These iconic images, conjured up by photographer Bert Stern’s amorous gaze, are among many that their creator discusses in this intimate portrait by filmmaker Shannah Laumeister, herself a long-time Stern model. Stern, who dropped out of school at 13 and started his creative career by working in Look magazine’s mailroom, would have us believe that all he does is ‘just push the button’. Some button: his portfolio for Smirnoff vodka ushered in concept photography, sweeping aside the drawn ad campaigns prevalent in the early 1950s, and made Stern a star at 25. His instinct for riveting compositions – still or moving, in the case of his sublime Jazz on a Summer’s Day – has flabbergasted many. Stern claims to photograph a space between himself and his subject ‘where anything can happen’. A lot has certainly happened in this volatile artist’s life, entertainingly exposed here in his dazzling pictures and his own candid recollections. — SR

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