Robert Capa, co-founder of the prestigious Magnum Photos agency, remarked that the work of Eve Arnold, who died in January, aged 99, "falls metaphorically between Marlene Dietrich's legs and the bitter lives of migratory potato pickers". It might seem an unlikely dichotomy – but not to Arnold. As she once said, "I don't see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. I see them simply as people in front of my lens."
So it was that her subjects ran the gamut from war veterans to veterans of the silver screen (Welles, Dietrich, Crawford), political pawns to political behemoths (Thatcher, Krushchev, Nixon). And while she is perhaps best known for her intimate shots of Marilyn Monroe, it was her work documenting the Black Panthers in 1960s Harlem that made her name – and made her the first woman invited to join Magnum.
Whether she was shooting the "oldest men in the world" in the Soviet Union or the chiselled chin of a Paul Newman, Arnold would endeavour to make herself "invisible" so her subjects would show the parts of themselves they'd otherwise keep private. A new retrospective makes those moments public – but the intimacy remains clear for all to see.
All About Eve is at Art Sensus, London SW1, until 27 April. The accompanying book is published by teNeues, priced £45
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