Bert Stern was born on October 3, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrant parents. At an early age an Irving Penn magazine photo sparked Bert’s interest in photography. He dropped out of high school in his senior year and was drafted by the Army at the start of the Korean War. Assigned to a base in Japan, he served as the base cameraman and photographer. His love of photographing beautiful women was obvious even then, and he returned to the U.S. with many photos of attractive Japanese women.
Back in the States, he took a job in the mailroom of Look Magazine, where he met Stanley Kubrick. He and Kubrick became friends.
A friendship which resulted in Bert’s taking some of his more famous photographs as Kubrick became a celebrated movie director and burnished Stern’s reputation as a sought after celebrity photographer.
Look’s Art Director, Hershel Bramson, gave Stern his first assignment as a commercial photographer. Bert didn’t disappoint him. His 1955 photographs for the campaign introducing Smirnoff vodka to the American market revolutionized product advertising. His reputation as a unique, creative photographer skyrocketed, and he became one of the era’s most sought after photographers by advertisers and celebrities.
Several years later, Kubrick hired him to do public relations and set photos for his films Lolita and Cleopatra. His iconic photograph of Sue Lyon in those red, heart-shaped sunglasses became the poster for the controversial Lolita movie. His photos of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the Cleopatra set chronicled an affair which became the subject of newspaper headlines worldwide.
Throughout the last half of the 20th century Stern shot many of the times’ most famous models, actors, musicians and celebrities—in addition to Burton and Taylor others included, Bardot, Twiggy, Hepburn, Brando, Cooper, Armstrong, Charles, Loren, Veruschka, Madonna, Lohan and most famously Marilyn Monroe.
His film Jazz on a Summers Day was added to the National Film Archives for its cultural, historic and artistic significance in 1999.
His life, artistry and personal views on many subjects, photography, art, women, were captured in an award winning documentary, Bert Stern Original Madman, released in 2012, shot, directed and produced by his wife, Shannah Laumeister Stern, now Trustee of the Bert Stern Trust.
Bert Stern died in his residence in New York City on June 26, 2013.