As that rarity, a female photojournalist in the Fifties, Eve Arnold joined the Magnum Photographic Agency, home to the likes of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Already in 1948, as the only female in her photography class in New York, she had distinguished herself amongst her male peers. Taught by the art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch, and with Richard Avedon among those in her class, Arnold took her camera to the catwalks of Harlem, where an alternative to mainstream fashion had found its feet.
Over the subsequent decades her eye for an image and her awareness of her own minority status, never failed to help her cast light upon those whom the camera might have otherwise ignored. She recorded the civil rights movement, American agrarians, South African shantytowns and Mongolian horse trainers. Always interested in women’s issues, in 1971 she made a film, Women Behind the Veil, going inside Arabian hammams and harems.
In her celebrity photographs, her understanding and compassion resulted in original interpretations of the glitterati. A favourite with actresses like Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, most famously her naturalistic aesthetic, took Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe out of the glare of the studio portrait and gave the world an enduring intimate insight into her beauty.
Her passing away last week at the grand age of 99 is a reminder of her legacy, not only of the startling images she took, but of a woman with a rare light, who lived brightly and bravely.