Milton Greene is often spoken of in context with Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn, and Norman Parkinson as one of the early fashion photography greats who elevated the genre into the heights of fine art. He was widely recognized for his adoption of color photography, his skill and creative vision as a director, and his contribution to history through the capture of famous people’s inner beauty.
Milton was born in New York in 1922 and began taking pictures at the age of 14. He decided not to take a scholarship to Pratt Institute instead focusing on his photographic work apprenticing under Elliot Elisofen, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe. By his early twenties his work regularly appeared in Life, Look, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and Vogue. Milton Greene is lauded for producing iconic portraits of personalities from film and from the stage including Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Groucho Marx, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, Judy Garland, Giacometti, Lauren Hutton, Alfred Hitchcock, Romy Schneider, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Ava Gardner, Steve McQueen, Claudia Cardinale, Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Dizzy Gillespie, Catherine Deneuve and Norman Mailer as well as many others. Despite having a lengthy A-List of superstar sitters, and top-tier periodicals publishing his work, Milton Greene is perhaps best known for having a very close friendship with Marilyn Monroe.
Prior to her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe lived with Milton Greene and his wife, became business partners together, and even shared cars. During their friendship, the two enjoyed over 50 photography sittings and made them a success because their friendship removed any personal barriers enabling Marilyn’s inner beauty and character to shine as brightly as her features. Their relationship was very close, and as his son Joshua recounts, included a phone call and the promise of a visit to LA just days before the actress met her tragic end.
Despite having the repertoire and recognition shared by his peers, Milton Greene rarely exhibited his work. His expansive archive of over 300,000 images is managed by his son who is meticulously restoring negatives and cataloging their subjects. Milton Greene has photographic credit in over 16 books which includes My Story: The Autobiography of Marilyn Monroe. The book was compiled and published with Marilyn’s express permission to Milton because he had been so close to her and was trusted. The sittings of Marilyn shot by Milton are some of the most famous images ever taken of the actress. They convey her moods, attitude, range of expression, playfulness, and sexual allure earning them a place of distinction in Art and American History.