by Beatrix Koch
I wrote this short story for a competition and it was selected by the jury. The ArtAscent Magazine called for artists and writers on the topic of BEAUTY.
Exploring the Marilyn Monroe Phenomenon
I was only sixteen that spring, when I applied for the photograph course. Our young teacher was very special. He had bright eyes, calm manners and was full of ideas. He loved teaching and did it from his heart. What is more, he opened a door which lead us to another magical world. We learned from him how to see and hear differently, how to pay more attention to details. We all liked his classes and wanted to know everything about taking really good photographs. He had a pretty girlfriend, she looked like a model to us. Later on, I learned that she really was a model. Skinny figure, long blonde hair, perfect, symmetric face. But there was something wrong with her beauty, there was an elegant coldness in it. I secretly called her Ice Queen.
He taught us how to use the light, how to make portraits using the old-school analogue technique. Once he was showing one portrait after the other, and suddenly paused at the picture of a woman for a long time. Marilyn Monroe. Twenty-five years dead. Projected on the wall, a black-and-white photograph. Looking straight in the camera, her mouth was a little open and her eyes half-closed. The famous Marilyn eyes. The woman who never gets old. I was just staring at the photo, capturing every detail, and I realised that I had never seen her so intimate before. I had never seen her intense beauty this way.
He broke the long silence, while we were looking at the photograph, memorizing it.
-She is the woman idol. She is “the” woman, whom every man wants. Look at this picture, she is shining! The perfect lights bring life into this portrait. It is a living picture due to not only the specially chosen lights, but her radiant beauty as well.
When I had thought of Marilyn before, I had always thought of a night club, close to the train station of the city, where there was a Marilyn neon-picture on the façade. In black and red, a cheap fake of the Andy Warhol picture. The whole imagination was so second-rate and so cheesy. “Really, Marilyn Monroe? – I thought. The woman that every man wants?” I was confused for a moment and didn’t understand why he said that.
And then he projected the famous Andy Warhol picture too. Both pictures were displayed on the wall, the black-and-white beside the coloured one. At that moment, when I saw those two pictures next each other, all that I had seen of her before suddenly made sense to me. I heard the teacher explain to us how the genius artwork of Warhol was printed from five screens. One carried the photographic image, and the other four carried the colours. Warhol said about this technique, “The more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.” I finally understood the emptiness of the neon club picture of her and the uniqueness of the black-and-white one. And I knew so clearly as never before, that with Marilyn no one could ever take any competition. I couldn’t forget that photo of her, and I wondered, how she could manage to make her brightness and life come through a photo even so many years later. Even after her death.
Photo credit: Pexels.com, Getty Images (1953)
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