Making the Image: Marilyn in the Desert

In a new post for the Magnum Photos blog, Michael Arnold looks back at this striking image captured by his grandmother Eve Arnold in the summer of 1960, as Marilyn prepared to shoot a dramatic scene for The Misfits in the blazing hot Nevada desert.

“I remember being particularly drawn to this image of Marilyn in the desert learning her lines. I didn’t know the backstory at the time but there was something mesmerizing about the way the picture was composed … A few years later I was looking through Eve’s contact sheets and saw the full contact sheet this image was taken from. I was quite taken aback. None of the other images on the sheet looked anything like this one. I had imagined that Eve had set the scene up knowing what she wanted and had taken quite a few images, waiting for the right light and expression on Marilyn’s face. But no, there were only three other images of the same scene, and all of them were in portrait format. Then suddenly, as shown by the contact sheet, Eve had turned her 35mm camera around to use landscape format, and in an instant, the whole composition came together, never to be repeated. In that instant something of the poignancy of Marilyn’s experience on The Misfits was caught on camera.”