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.
Marilyn Monroe Photographer Bill Carroll Talks About Working with a Young Norma Jeane
Article published on June, 28, 2010
by Ivan Fernandez
Marilyn Monroe's legacy as the personification of the Hollywood lifestyle and glamour (along with its tragedies) is just one reason why the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Beverly Hills is running its current exhibit "Becoming Marilyn." The show features a collection of photos that span her 17-year career from the young and unknown girl-next-door named Norma Jeane to the blond bombshell remembered today.
Many famous photos line the walls of the gallery, as well as a number of never-before-seen shots of Monroe by Bert Stern, Tom Kelley, Milton Greene, David Conover. The latter is credited with launching her career.
Photographer Bill Carroll, Monroe's last living photographer of her pre-Marilyn years, shared his portraits of a nineteen-year-old Norma Jeane at the exhibit and made a personal appearance at the private reception on June 24.
"It was right after World War II," reminisced Carroll who took some of the first photos of the future icon. "I opened a laboratory, processing w hat was called Ansco color film. It was a film that the Americans had expropriated from the Germans where it was called Agfacolor. There were two laboratories processing that film. One in New York called Favelle and my laboratory in Los Angeles. Eventually, it grew into quite a good-sized business and I needed a cover card for the drug stores so they could see what I was doing."
He continued, "About that time, a man by the name of David Conover, an Army photographer based in the Santa Anita racetrack in an Army photo center commanded by Captain Ronald Reagan, finds this pretty little girl and spends a couple of weeks running around California with her and drops off a roll of film to process. Well I was looking for a girl for my counter card who was a girl next door. I didn't want a model. I wanted a good-looking Plain Jane, the kind of kid you'd like to live next to."
Carroll asked Conover for her phone number and scheduled a shoot.
"It was her first modeling job," he said. "In fact, she got paid 20 dollars!"
After that day, Norma Jeane eventually signed on with a modeling agency and Carroll never saw her again nor did he ever know that she blossomed into Marilyn Monroe until 1985 while on a backpacking expedition through Yugoslavia.
"I was bitten by ticks and I came down with lyme disease," he said. "That's a bitch, I gotta tell ya. One day I woke up and my whole body collapsed. So I'm sitting in a doctor's office and I'm leafing through Time Magazine. There's a story about a photographer named David Conover. There's a picture in there, which I recognized as one of the pictures I had processed!"
Carroll spent the next six months digging through boxes of negatives filled with photos dating back to his first gig in 1934 until he found his buried treasure: photos of a young Marilyn Monroe posing on Castle Rock (which no longer exists) in Santa Monica in her own outfits.
"I sincerely believe that my pictures present a different woman than the one they know. I had no idea who Monroe was until I read that Time magazine 40 years later. I had no idea I had photographed the same woman."