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June 19, 2021

Marilyn Monroe Being Moody for Photographer Ben Ross in 1953

When we think of Marilyn photographers, the name Ben Ross is one that does not often come up, at least not immediately. However, when looking at his photographs they are some of the most beautiful ever taken of Marilyn Monroe. Ross was to photograph Marilyn three times over her lifetime with the most famous of his photographs being the ‘Emotions’ session.

Ben Ross was born in 1916 in New York, his birth name was Benjamin Rosenblatt. He had a natural gift for photography and so it was no surprise when he took up a post with Parade magazine where his brother Sid also worked as a journalist.

He had a style of photography which was unusual for the time, he did not liked staged shots and preferred to capture his subjects in candid poses. He himself remarked that this was not the accepted way of photographing the famous, “I never did that. I basically photographed during interviews, or, you know, just as they were.”

In 1951 during a visit to Hollywood he was asked if he would photograph a starlet named Marilyn Monroe. From his description of their first meeting it seems that Marilyn’s problems with lateness did not start when she was an established star, she appears to have had difficulties in readying herself for the camera and was troubled by her appearance right from the start of her career.

“I got Marilyn Monroe walking down the street the first time I photographed her. She kept me waiting for an hour and a half. I didn’t know who she was, she was just a bit player who did a thing in The Asphalt Jungle, and was a mistress of a guy – a little part, and got a lot of mail. I photographed a lot of starlets in those days. Most of them didn’t work out. They said “photograph her”. I was with my brother then. We were saying, “who the hell is she?” We were going to leave, but somehow we stayed. That was a nice day. We were waiting outside her house and finally a woman comes out. She said she doesn’t think she’s beautiful enough, she keeps putting on her make up and taking it off. Finally, she came out in a sweater and she looked great. She walked down the street and I photographed her. I did some others. I did her in a book store. The only charge account she had was two charge accounts to bookstores. She wanted really desperately to be admired intellectually. I asked her to pick a book to read, so she picks out an Arthur Miller book – six years before they were married. It wasn’t a coincidence. She had met him at a studio, one of those studio things, she admired him. So, you know, I got a few pictures. She was very charming, once she got there – a person with heart, not the usual Hollywood person. She was probably the only Hollywood star that you could relate to. When she came to New York, she called Sid, my brother – I was away on a job  –  and they went out to Coney Island.”

Unfortunately Ross and Marilyn would never share another photographic sitting. In 2001 Ross began to reproduce some of his Marilyn portraits and in 2008 a set of thirteen of these sold at Christies for $35,000.

Ross was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Photographic Administrators Incorporated in 2002. He died in 2004.


  1. Mitch R. (professional photographer)June 19, 2021 at 2:35 AM

    "the name Ben Ross is one that does not often come up"
    Totally false, and an incredibly ignorant statement. Ben Ross was (and is still) rightfully considered to be one of the most masterful users of studio portrait lighting ever, as these portraits clearly show. High key, low key, and everything in between shows complete control and virtuosity.

    Would it really kill you to refrain from making claims about things that you know nothing about? It sure would go a long way to increasing the number of people willing to tolerate your site for long.

  2. Excellent comments, spot on. Sadly however, they are falling on deaf ears. The guy running this site really only cares about his ad income apparently. I have gone through almost every gallery here over the last month, and people have been making the same 3 or 4 criticisms since the site began. None of them have been addressed. It seems the flow of people coming and going here is still enough to make it worth his while. Not surprising, really. There has never been a shortage of gullible people on this planet.




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