Eve Arnold at Newlands House

To Know About Women: The Photography of Eve Arnold, until Jan 7

A party to introduce blacks to whites during civil rights strike in America, 1958© Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
A party to introduce blacks to whites during civil rights strike in America, 1958 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Eve Arnold was a Magnum documentary photographer, best known for the many photographs she took of Marilyn Monroe, over a ten-year period in the 50s and early 60s.

If the two parts of that sentence don’t seem to go together, it should be made clear that Monroe particularly trusted Arnold for the journalistic approach she applied to her craft: the American photographer generally eschewed the usual paraphernalia of celebrity photography, avoiding the use of tripods, backdrops and artificial light, and building up a rapport with her subjects that led to unusually candid shots. The two women became friends, and you can see that in the images that resulted from their collaboration, notably those taken over a two-month period during the shooting of the movie The Misfits in 1961.

Some of those shots are among the 90 or so on display at Newlands House Gallery’s big summer retrospective of Arnold’s career To Know about Women: The Photography of Eve Arnold. But there’s much, much more besides. Arnold was a prolific traveller, interested in exposing social issues, from the Black Rights movement in the States to prostitution in Havana, Cuba. 

Hers was a very sympathetic, very female gaze. In her 1976 book The Unretouched Woman, she stated: ‘I have been poor and I wanted to document poverty; I had lost a child and I was obsessed with birth; I was interested in politics and I wanted to know how it affected our lives; I am a woman and I wanted to know about women.’