The renown photojournalist died peacefully at age 99 last Wednesday.
When I first met Eve Arnold, she was an elegant, feisty yet unassuming woman of 80, still capturing astounding moments in her photographs. Though her London apartment building had an elevator, she preferred to vault up to her 3rd floor flat under her own steam – which is the way in which she had lived her life for decades.
Eve never labeled herself a feminist, but she believed that women saw the world through a different lens. She was the first woman to become a full member of the Magnum Photos cooperative. She was a major star in what is considered the golden age of news photography, when magazines like Life and Look disseminated news through big, arresting pictures captured on-the-scene (in war and peace) by adventurous photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White.
She learned the trade at the New School in New York City where she studied under Alexey Brodovitch, the art director for Harper’s Bazaar magazine. One day, when he assigned his students to photograph a fashion story, Eve remembered hearing from her babysitter that fashion shows were held in Harlem — in churches, bars and other untraditional places. The fashion photos she took in Harlem became her first portfolio and she continued to follow unconventional paths throughout her lifetime.
During the 1970s, after waiting 10 years, she visited China twice, becoming one of the first westerners to be granted a rare visa after America and China established diplomatic relations. Traveling 40,000 miles, she photographed Communist officials, Mongolian horsemen and children at work. The trip was chronicled in a book, one of dozens she wrote and photographed. Though she became even more famous for her intimate photographs of such celebrities as Marilyn Monroe and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, In China, which won the National Book Award is my favorite book of Eve’s. This is not only because of her stunning photographs, but also because I had just returned from a photo journey of Tibet when Eve and I first met in London.
Eve was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1980. In 1995 she was made a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and was elected “Master Photographer” – the world’s most prestigious photographic honor – awarded by New York’s International Center of Photography.
When asked what kept her working with such insight and skill over the decades, Eve answered, “Curiosity.”
It’s there – in her eyes – and now in in the images she captured: her legacy.