Un­pub­lished Mon­roe pho­tos a trea­sure trove

Col­lec­tion to be auc­tioned — with copy­rights

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ula Ilnytzky

NEW YORK — Fash­ion and celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher Mil­ton H. Greene was only 26 years old when he pho­tographed Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe for Look mag­a­zine. He went on to take thou­sands of pho­tos of the Hol­ly­wood siren, cap­tur­ing both her vul­ner­a­bil­ity and her sex-bomb per­sona.

Now, 3,700 un­pub­lished black-and-white and colour neg­a­tives and trans­paren­cies of Greene’s Mon­roe ar­chive are go­ing on the auc­tion block — with copy­rights. They are but a frac­tion of 75,000 celebrity neg­a­tives and slides Greene shot in the 1950s and 1960s that are go­ing on sale July 27 at Pro­files in His­tory in Los An­ge­les and on­line.

Copy­rights are in­cluded with all the ma­te­rial, which is spread over 268 lots, mean­ing a po­ten­tial buyer can print im­ages from the neg­a­tives and trans­paren­cies, sell them and li­cense the ma­te­rial.

“It’s a big, big deal. It’s like sell­ing the recipe for Coca-Cola,” said Joseph Mad­dalena, owner of Pro­files in His­tory, which auc­tions orig­i­nal Hol­ly­wood mem­o­ra­bilia and ar­ti­facts.

“It’s nearly un­heard of in a pub­lic venue, par­tic­u­larly for an en­tire ar­chive,” said Christopher Bel­port, the pho­tog­ra­phy con­sul­tant for Pro­files in His­tory.

The ar­chive also in­cludes hun­dreds of pro­duc­tion stills of Faye Du­n­away dur­ing the film­ing of Bon­nie & Clyde and Cary Grant and Doris Day in That Touch of Mink. Among oth­ers are Sid Cae­sar, Jane Fonda, Au­drey Hep­burn, Cather­ine Deneuve, Ava Gard­ner and Mar­lene Di­et­rich.

Most of the lots are ex­pected to fetch be­tween $1,000 and $15,000 de­pend­ing on the num­ber of neg­a­tives in each lot and the fea­tured celebrity. But it’s any­one’s guess what they will bring. “It’s un­char­tered ter­ri­tory,” Mad­dalena said.

Peter Stern, an at­tor­ney spe­cial­iz­ing in art­sre­lated mat­ters, raised con­cern that un­signed prints made from the neg­a­tives could hurt the mar­ket. “It’s not that hard to sign a photo,” he said.

But Mad­dalena noted: “There are no vin­tage Mil­ton Greene pho­to­graphs. ... He was a work- for-hire pho­tog­ra­pher” shoot­ing cov­ers for Look, Life, Glam­our, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and other mag­a­zines.

Like his con­tem­po­raries, Irv­ing Penn and Richard Ave­don, Greene is cred­ited with el­e­vat­ing fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy to fine art. But un­like them, Greene did not com­mer­cial­ize his work. “Only a hand­ful was pub­lished,” Mad­dalena said.

“The sud­den op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire a large num­ber of cam­era ar­ti­facts from a his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant pho­tog­ra­pher will likely am­plify the value ... and pro­vide fuller con­text to those that are sold in the fu­ture in auc­tion or pri­vately,” Bel­port said.

The seller is an uniden­ti­fied Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tor who pur­chased the ar­chive about 10 years ago.

The items came from the Greene es­tate “via a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tute in Poland that had se­cured own­er­ship from Greene in a busi­ness deal­ing” with the copy­right, the auc­tion house said in a state­ment.

The pho­tog­ra­pher’s son, Joshua Greene, called it “a bad busi­ness deal.”

He said that in the process of sev­er­ing the part­ner­ship, he gave them the copy­right, call­ing it “my mis­take, which I re­gret to this day.”

Greene op­er­ates Ar­chives LLC , a Florence, Ore., com­pany that sells dig­i­tally re­stored prints of his­tor­i­cal col­lec­tions and owns 110,000 neg­a­tives and trans­paren­cies that his fa­ther gave him be­fore he died in 1985 at the age of 63.

Greene said Pro­files has the resid­ual of the to­tal film ar­chive of 280,000 items, but not all of it would be of in­ter­est to the pub­lic.

Ar­chives’ limited edi­tion prints are all signed, stamped and au­then­ti­cated by the es­tate of Mil­ton Greene.

“The fine art mar­ket is pro­tected,” Greene said, be­cause any prints made from the film of­fered at the auc­tion would be far less valu­able with­out the seal of au­then­tic­ity. He plans to at­tend the sale. “I hate to see Humpty Dumpty bro­ken up into so many pieces — 268 lots. I’d like to see it all come back home un­der one roof where it be­longs,” he said.

Neg­a­tives and trans­paren­cies fade and de­teri- orate and would need to be dig­i­tally re-mas­tered by any­one who bought them to pre­serve them for­ever — a lengthy process that Greene said takes up to 20 hours per neg­a­tive.

Mil­ton Greene’s 1953 as­sign­ment for Look was the start of a close friend­ship and busi­ness re­la­tion­ship with Mon­roe. He shot more than 5,000 im­ages of her dur­ing more than 55 sit­tings over the next four years — un­til she mar­ried Arthur Miller.

Greene was her con­fi­dante and men­tor. To­gether they formed Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe Pro­duc­tions, which re­sulted in Bus Stop and The Prince and the Show­girl.

The rarest other celebrity neg­a­tives in the sale are of porn star Linda Lovelace.

He shot 2,000 im­ages of her be­tween her film­ing of Deep Throat I and Deep Throat II for a pro­ject that was never re­al­ized, Mad­dalena said. “Not one has ever been seen be­fore, and we have them all.”

Mark Vieira, an author on the pho­to­graphic his­tory of Hol­ly­wood, said he was flab­ber­gasted by the vast­ness of the col­lec­tion.

“Usu­ally this kind of ma­te­rial of­fers you a slice of his­tory. The Greene col­lec­tion is more like a chunk of his­tory,” Vieira said.


Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe be­came close friends with Mil­ton Greene, who shot thou­sands of im­ages of the ac­tress.

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