Immigrants from Brooklyn, his father worked as a children’s portrait photographer. After dropping out of high school at the age of 16, he gained a job in the mail room at Look magazine. He became art director at Mayfair magazine, where Stern learned how to develop film and make contact sheets, and started taking his own pictures. In 1951, Stern was drafted into the US Army and was sent to Japan and assigned to the photographic department.
Stern’s first professional assignment was in 1955 for a Madison Avenue advertising agency for Smirnoff vodka. His best known work is arguably The Last Sitting, is a collection of 2,500 photographs taken for Vogue of Marilyn Monroe over a three-day period, six weeks before her death. Stern’s bookThe Last Sitting was published in 1982 and again in 2000.
He has photographed Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Drew Barrymore and Lindsay Lohan (recreating The Last Sitting), among others, in addition to his work for advertising and travel publications.
Bert Stern directed and produced Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959), a documentary film record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. In 1999, the film was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
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