Category Archives: “The driest of the dry”

“Designer with a Camera”


I could not resist going to the library, after reading that an

innovative and self-taught photographer named Bert Stern

passed away last Tuesday, May 25, 2013. He was born on

October 3, 1929.

How will you know this famous, but not always recognized,

photographer? He started as a mail room clerk at “Look”

magazine, straight out of high school. Bert made his way up

from the mailroom, as the rags to riches story unfolded.

Once he left this position, he moved to “Mayfair” magazine

becoming the art director, and proceeded to fine tune his skills

in photography.

Bert Stern liked to say that he “didn’t know how to read a light

meter.” By the mid-1950’s, Stern became known for his memorable

and strikingly unique angles in advertising, including his advertising

for Smirnoff vodka martini.

Here are a few unusual artistic shots of “The driest of the dry” vodka

martinis. One was with men in dark business suits sitting in sand

dunes, holding martini glasses. Another captured a camel walking

down Fifth Avenue in NYC. An expensive but worthy photo shoot in

Egypt, presents a martini glass in the sand, with the Great Pyramid

of Giza behind it. Matt Schudel, Washington Post reporter, describes

this awesome angle as:

“The tip of the pyramid, suffused in pinkish-gold light, is refracted upside

down in the liquid inside the glass.”

The “creative revolution” in advertising in  the 50’s, depicted in Mad Men

television series, is attributed to Bert Stern. He also is famous for his

portrayal of Marilyn Monroe known as “The Last Sitting,” since it was held

in July, 1962. Marilyn died August 5, 1962 at age 36. These 2,571 images were

published a 1982 book, titled “Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting.”

Originally, Vogue had been the one to send Bert to Hollywood to take these

photographs. Bert brought 3 bottles of Dom Perignon and without even her

drinking a sip, she was very easily relaxed. Later, he recounted in an Australian


” She was much more beautiful and easier to work with than I expected.”

Bert Stern’s other major accomplishment was a landmark jazz documentary

film, “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in

Rhode Island.

This film was made before his 30th birthday, including crowd and sailboat

images, along with footage of musicians who could fill the Hall of Fame for

Jazz! Here are just a few names to ‘drop’: Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry,

Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan and Anita O’Day.

He was later given the opportunity to take portrait photographs of major

movie stars,  such as Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey

Hepburn and 1950’s model, Suzy Parker. In 1962, he made the movie poster

photograph of teen actress Sue Lyon with her heart shaped sunglasses for


A 2011 documentary was made by Laumeister, “Bert Stern: Original Mad Man.”

Renowned designer, George Lois, said of Stern’s advertising photography was

“breathtaking because they were ideas.”

In 2011, talking of himself, Stern said, “I don’t consider myself a photographer,

I’m a designer with a camera.”

The death of this outstanding photographer, Bert Stern, captured my heart

reading the tributes to him. Also, seeing and studying some examples of his

fine body of work.

This made me come “out of hiding” from my Mom’s apartment and I threw

aside my “recreation and relaxation” to go to the Westlake Public Library.

I regret to say I did not check out your interesting, both  funny and serious,

posts. Please just accept that I wanted to inform you of a loss of this man with

humble origins who made it to acclaim and fortune, through learning his

trade and gave us so much in return.