Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Visioneer’s Gallery: Marilyn Reinvented

By Baldev Duggal Published in The Business of Photography
Visioneer’s Gallery: Marilyn Reinvented
Photographed by some of the greatest photographers of her time, Monroe is said to have been a perfect model, fully confident of her visual appeal yet wrought with insecurities—her beauty mixed with her vulnerabilities infused a special life in her pictures. But none of her pictures have had quite the staying power than the ones shot by Bert Stern in the "Last Sitting" series. Those photos have been described by author Amanda Fortini as "arguably the most famous images ever captured of America's most famous actress…remarkable for the raw truths they seem to reveal." She adds, "Stern excavated and preserved the poignant humanity of the real woman—beautiful, but also fragile, needy, flawed—from the monumental sex symbol." Despite never having received formal training in photography, Bert Stern created photographs that have frozen Monroe in our memories forever. Spontaneous, sensuous, playful and unstaged, the photographs take us on a three-day journey with Marilyn Monroe in which we are awed, thrilled, sympathize and idolize the icon at the same time. Such is the staying power of those pictures that Vogue hired Bert Stern to recreate the same pictures using another pop icon of our times, Lindsay Lohan.

Having acquired an almost cult-like following, the photographs of Marilyn Monroe aren't an easy job for a curator to present in a new light. How does one communicate the narrative of a legend through printed stills? Stern, now in his 80s, has managed to surprise us all once again by "reinventing Marilyn" through gemstones encrusted on the photographs, creating a three-dimensional experience of the model for the viewer. Lisa and Lynette Lavender from Bert Stern's team worked closed with our account manager Hope Savvides and a host of other Duggal team members since 2010 on creating the new series of prints for "Marilyn Reinvented." We began with printing the images on digital canvas then also tested the pictures on digital watercolors to achieve a fine-art-painting-like effect. Atop each print, Swarovski crystals, borealis crystals as well as fresh water pearls were painstakingly placed on different elements in the photo to create a remarkable three-dimensionality. A glamorous photo of Monroe wearing a scarf that has now been embellished with crystals epitomizes her exquisite feminine appeal. The effect is almost magical across the prints. We printed Fine Art Archival Giclee Watercolor Prints ranging from size 16x20 inches all the way to 10 feet. The largest print was a backdrop of an old contact sheet of Marilyn Monroe that was scanned at very high resolution on a drum scanner and printed on magic canvas material. It's almost like a wallpaper. It has adhesive backing that's removable. The opening was so successful that New Yorkers queued up outside Milk Studios to gain entry. And to make the entire experience a especially gratifying one, we were given a tremendous compliment by Lisa Lavender, who remarked, "Bert only used Duggal because they not only print on many various papers and canvases, but they have an excellent team to clean his 50-year-old negatives. They are perfectionists and incredibly professional."

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