On November 17, 1961, 27-year old photographer Douglas Kirkland got to spend one evening alone with the greatest sex symbol of his, or any following, era. The hours he spent with 35-year old Marilyn Monroe, only months before her death, have since become immortalized in Kirkland's series for Look magazine. Monroe plays simultaneously with Kirkland and the camera, wiped clean of red lipstick, wearing only rumpled white silk sheets.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kirkland, who went on to photograph a galaxy of stars including Audrey Hepburn, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Cher, the most important evening of his career in greater detail: "I never said, put your hand here, turn this way or that way. I was talking with her and we were talking rapidly back and forth, but it was a seduction, a two-way seduction really. With everything except the final sex at the end, but the sex really went into the camera, and that’s why these pictures are what they are." The closest moment to that classic pinnacle was when Monroe invited Kirkland into bed with her.
Fifty years later the photographs are as striking as ever, Marilyn's visible laugh and undeniable sexuality converging in one of the most intimate shots of a superstar ever captured. This winter, the Westwood Gallery in New York City will exhibit never-before-seen images from the shoot, as well as black-and-white photographs of Kirkland working with Monroe, before she asked everyone else to leave the set.
Correction: A previous edition of this article stated the shoot took place in 1962. We regret the error.
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