Milton H. Greene

One year before Marilyn Monroe

The summer before he discovered his great muse, the photographer Milton H. Greene (New York, 1922 - Los Angeles, 1985) chose Mallorca as the backdrop for a fashion editorial published in January 1953 in Life magazine.

The editorial entitled For now and next summer showed the European and American fashion tendencies for the upcoming season, garments and accessories displayed by models on the beaches and in rural areas of the island. The article also introduced Mallorca as a hitherto-unknown destination, asserting that “the beauty of its landscape and low prices (6 dollars with everything included in a luxury hotel)” attracted tourists from Western Europe.

Milton H. Greene was a pioneer in taking models on location, away from the studio. Other great photographers of the day, such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn or Norman Parkinson followed suit. In the words of his son, Joshua Greene, his father “convinced the editors of Look and Life magazines to go on location. Shooting fashion on location where he would use architecture, landscapes, children, markets, courtyards and whenever possible, natural light”. He achieved this for the first time with a photo shoot in the Virgin Islands, in the United States, in 1951. “That trip granted him the freedom and trust to embark to Mallorca and Paris” the following year.

Nelly Nyad was one of the models who posed for Milton that summer of 1952 (see page 55). She is 93 now, and recalls with affection those days when she worked for the designer Hubert de Givenchy. It was precisely in his fashion house in Paris that she bumped into Milton for the first time. “He immediately asked me to go with him for a shooting in Spain with Suzy Parker, a charming American model, and Fiona Von Thyssen. We stayed in Madrid a couple of days working at the Prado Museum and then we went to Mallorca for another shoot. We had a wonderful time, working and having fun. Milton was young, charming, funny and a talented photographer. Since he didn’t have a millionaire’s budget, we stayed in a small countryside hotel. He rented a motorbike to visit the island and find some quiet places or farms where he would like to work. I thought the island was beautiful, warm and nice with friendly people who helped us in every way. Crowded and lively cafés, beautiful beaches; the kind of place you want to stay in. Since that trip to Mallorca, Milton and I stayed friends for life. I worked with him many times, and he made some famous portraits with me that were published in Normal Mailer’s book Of women and their elegance. I stayed with Milton several times in New York and in his home in Los Angeles with my husband Nano Da Silva. He came to see us in Paris shortly before he died. Milton was a wonderful person”.

Exactly nine months after this issue of Life magazine was published, in September of 1953, the encounter between Milton H. Greene and the actress Marilyn Monroe would take place, after they were brought together by a job for the American magazine Look. Marilyn had sprained an ankle whilst filming River of No Return with the director Otto Preminger in Canada. The photo shoot took place in Los Angeles during her recovery. As Joshua Greene recounts, “Impressed by his work, Marilyn wanted to meet my father, expecting the Abraham Lincoln of photography, but she was surprised to see the baby-faced Milton. She told him, “Why you’re just a boy”, to which Milton replied “You’re just a girl”.” This shoot gave rise to a professional collaboration and a close friendship which made Milton the Hollywood star’s portrait photographer par excellence, and together they founded a film production company. Throughout his career, Milton H. Greene was a famous fashion photographer and big celebrities posed in front of his lens, such as Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Paul Newman and Andy Warhol, among others.

In the ‘70s, the majority of his more than 300,000 image archive had faded due [...]


Read this article in full in IN PALMA 56. And if you like, subscribe to IN PALMA for 1 year and get the next 4 issues of the magazine delivered to your home.

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