05 January 2012

Eve Arnold: Dietrich's "White-Haired Girl"

Dietrich photographed by Arnold
during a 1952 Columbia recording session
I just read that Eve Arnold died on Wednesday. As you may know, Arnold photographed Dietrich at a Columbia recording session in 1952, the New York City Museum of Modern Art's (MOMA's) "An Evening with Marlene Dietrich" retrospective in 1959, and rehearsals at the Paris Olympia in 1962. My favorite Arnold photos were the high-contrast ones in which a grimacing and sometimes almost gurning Dietrich unintentionally mimicked the Cheshire Cat, so thoroughly absorbed in her work that her body parts vanished into the background--be it stage or studio.

In 2007, Jer wrote a post about Arnold's Dietrich portfolio at Magnum Photos, which I have deleted because he used a photo featuring the site's watermarks. Jer, if you're reading this, my apologies! For those of you interested in seeing what the site has to offer, try this link. If that fails, follow these instructions:
  1. Go to
  2. Click "Advanced Search"
  3.  Type "Marlene Dietrich" in the "Include Keywords" box
  4. Select "Arnold, Eve" from the "Include Photographer" dropbox.
  5. Click "Search"
Be aware that Magnum Photos has other Dietrich photos, which you can view by skipping step 4. As you may notice, the Arnold photo of Dietrich in this post will not appear in your search results, and I have seen several other Dietrich photos taken by Arnold not on that site (outtakes?), which you can find provided that you're willing to scour Google. If you want to know about Arnold's experiences working with Dietrich, read a chapter from her autobiographical work, Film Journal:


  1. What a fascinating account. Marlene was such a contradiction, and to have two such outstanding people in the same room would have made such an interesting combination.

    Obviously, my favourite part was where Dietrich allowed Arnold to photograph because of "such authority". Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. Ah, that was me by the way, I had hit "enter" all too quickly.

  3. Cara, no problem! I'm constantly editing or resubmitting my posts and comments because of all my typos and malapropisms.

    Dietrich's tolerance of Arnold reflected the respect Dietrich expressed in the Schell documentary for people who work hard and know how to do their jobs. Arnold may have feigned naivete for showing the French Vogue editor her Dietrich photos, but she was quite business savvy for deciding to own the negatives. Not only did she work with authority, she maintained control of her authorship. By the way, the Esquire photo-essay (scroll down this page) didn't do her images justice--too much cropping! I wonder why that bottom right photo isn't on the Magnum Photos site, though. It's one of the best.

  4. Yes, she did! I agree on the business savvy idea and also the cropping. Those images were perfection as a whole.

    I had no idea that image was not on the Magnum site, but it should be! It's one of my favourites of the collection - and I have to disagree with Ms Arnold about Marlene turning up in something else. I thought the black dress looked great, and I liked the brooch. Maybe it's just the flamboyance in me which loves a little sparkle. ;)

  5. Arnold took some stark photos of Dietrich (e.g., the one of Dietrich sitting and turning her head away), so I can see how something glittery could have lightened up that look too much. On the other hand, Arnold succeeded in producing some of the most feminine and fun images of Dietrich that I've ever seen, and Dietrich's dress and accessories helped. In fact, some photos are downright cute (e.g., the sheet music ones)!