Interview With Marilyn Monroe Photographer Bill Carroll
Article published on June, 27, 2010
by LaDale Anderson

BEVERLY HILLS—A historic exhibition is opening at the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Beverly Hills on Friday, June 25.  Rare never before seen photos of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe will be on display for the first time to the public.  Pictures by photographers Bill Carroll, George Barris and Bert Stern will be on display at the exhibition known as "Becoming Marilyn," which shows an in depth collection of Marilyn Monroe photos from her first pictures taken in 1945 to the very last in 1962.  Canyon News recently had the pleasure of speaking to famed photographer Bill Carroll about his career and rare photos of Ms. Monroe.

Q: When you hear the word photography what is the first thing that comes to mind ?

A: “When I hear the word photography I think I need to (laughing) get the lead out of my butt and take more pictures.”

Q: At what age did you realize this is my passion and this is what I want to do ?

A: “I fell into photography by mistake.  I was washing dishes earning $1 a day when I saw this magazine [called] Camera-Craft in San Francisco.  I was looking through the magazine where I saw you can sell pictures for $2-$5 a piece.  So for Christmas I saved my money and bought a camera, took pictures and began selling them, it was a way for me to earn extra money.”

Q: What was it like working with icon Marilyn Monroe?

A: “I knew her when she was Norma Jeane.  I didn’t have to do too much I would just push the camera button.  The pictures that I took were her pictures, not my creation.”

Q: Are there any celebrities today you’d love to photograph?

A: “I do very little photography today.  I am continuing a long-time career in book publishing.”

Q: Is there anything you can tell us about Marilyn Monroe people would be surprised to hear about?

A: “I never saw Marilyn Monroe or pictures when she became an actress, I knew her as Norma Jeane.”

Q: When you’re getting ready to photograph a person what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?

A: “Get in that person’s head.  I tell them my objections, what I want to create and the use the picture will be to the public.  I must be on the same track as the participant or we won’t get good pictures.”

Q: What do you consider the most valuable piece of art?

A: “The message that it creates on the observer, whether it is an emotional or intellectual response.”

Q: What’s the secret to living a long and healthy life?

A: (Laughing) “It came with right genes. My mother lived to be 100.  I stay active and busy and these things work.”

Q: If you weren’t a photographer, what career path would you have chosen?

A: “I have had more careers than many can imagine.  I worked as a journalist; I worked at a bus company in management as well as book publishing.”

Q: Can you describe one photograph that you saw during your lifetime that stirred strong emotion in you?

A: “A picture of the Berlin Wall where people were standing and looking at it and hoping it would come down.”

Q: You took one of the very first portraits of Marilyn Monroe when she was Norma Jeane.  Did you know back then she would become this huge star?

A: “No idea at all.  I was trying to take pictures of a girl next door.  I had no idea of where she would go.  This was her first modeling job, I wasn’t sure if she could model or not.”

Q: Would you say the camera loved Marilyn Monroe?

A: “She was a natural in front of the camera. She was doing what she thought was right.  I just pressed the button. The pictures were her creations.”

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who would like to get into the business?

A: “I would tell them to look at photography backwards.  Start with the public.  What does the public want to see?”

Mr. Carroll is living a vibrant and healthy life at the age of 94.  Pictures by Bert Stern’s “Last Sitting,” Tom Kelley’s “Red Velvet” and Marilyn Monroe’s personal confidant and business partner Milton Greene will be on display at the gallery.
The “Becoming Marilyn” exhibition opens to the public on Friday, June 25, at 11 a.m.  The event will end on September 18.  The Andrew Weiss Art Gallery is located on 179 South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.  The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.