The Early Years
Eve (Cohen) Arnold was born in 1912 in Philadelphia to Rabbi Velvel Sklarski and Bosya Laschiner (aka William and Bessie Cohen). She was one of nine children. Before becoming a photographer, Eve was a wife and mother on Long Island, NY. During World War II, she took a job at photofinishing plant. After the war ended, at the age of 36, she enrolled in a six-week intensive course at the New School for Social Research under the tutelage of Harper Bazaar’s art director, Alexesy Brodovitch. Before long she was taking naturalistic photos of Harlem fashion shows and intimate portraits of migrant farm workers on Long Island. In1951 she approached Magnum, the international photo cooperative. Said Eve, “It was a daring thing for a rank beginner to approach these giants…but I was desperate for a path to open.” She freelanced with Magnum and then, in 1957, she became the first woman to be a full member.
Though known to many for her relaxed, luminescent images of Marilyn Monroe, Eve Arnold covered a wide variety of subjects. Her work spanned the political spectrum from Senator Joe McCarthy to Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. Inmates on death row, newborn babies, Indira Gandhi, 17-year-old Angelica Huston, and members of the American Nazi Party all found themselves reflected in her lens.
Entry into Closed Societies
In the sixties, Eve went to the USSR to photograph the oldest people in the world and found herself under constant surveillance by the KGB. A few years later she shot The Veiled Women, a photo essay that gave Westerners a rare glimpse at traditional Afghani women’s lives. And at the age of 67 (67!), Ms. Arnold received a then unheard of three-month visa to travel to China. The resulting photos were shown at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, her first major solo exhibition. Additionally, she wrote the book In China, which won the National Book Award.
In addition to the National Book Award, Ms. Arnold was named a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, an officer of the Order of the British Empire, and a Master Photographer of the International Center of Photography, an award considered by many to be the most prestigious in the world of photography.
In Her Own Words
“I don't see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. I see them simply as people in front of my lens.”
“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”
“I don’t agree with all this nonsense about black-and-white photography being art and color being commerce. That’s lunacy. I’m greedy. I want to do everything. I want to shoot in black-and-white and in color. I want to make films, and I want to write. There is no reason why you cannot do it all.”