There's an underlying sadness to this show of 100 photographs by Magnum photographer Eve Arnold – she died in January this year, two months before the exhibition opening and three months before her 100th birthday. But, quite rightly, this is still more of a celebratory showcase of her work than a memorial.
Arnold's best known images are her portraits of Marilyn Monroe, seen in more unguarded moments. And there's a good selection of those here – looking pensive on the set of 'The Misfits' in 1960, having her hair brushed and coiffed on a plane as she is transformed into her public persona. But whether she was photographing the harsh working and living conditions of black migrant workers on Long Island in 1951, or creating an unexpectedly domestic double portrait of a 16-year-old Angelica Huston with her father John, Arnold's ability was in revealing a more human and often more complex picture of her subjects than almost any other photographer.
This may be a selling exhibition, and drawn from a private collection, but it features enough carefully chosen 'greatest hits' and surprises to function as a fitting retrospective. In the former category there is the weary young woman resting on her drink at a bar in Havana in 1954; Arnold's images of Malcolm X and defiant American Nazis at black Muslim rallies in the early 1960s and her beautiful, muted colour images from China, taken in 1979. Arnold was one of the first photographers to visit China following the death of Mao (after years of persistent visa requests) and her images provide a unique record of ordinary Chinese life at that time. The latter category includes Andy Warhol actually getting his hands dirty with paint and print, engrossed in making flower stencils on the floor of the factory in 1964.
For much of her career Arnold may have been the cliché of a woman in a man's world but, by all accounts, it was her passion, tenacity and strong social conscience, rather than her sex, that gained her access to her subjects. British life was a subject too. Arnold was born in Philadelphia, to Russian-Jewish parents, but moved to London in 1961 and made it her home, living here for 50 years. Her black-and-white image of an audition by a female singer for The Royal College of Music, in 1963, beautifully sums up a formal aspect of British class and culture at that time that seems decades away from the vitality and freedom of the swinging '60s. A particularly candid portrait of an obviously relaxed Queen shows her smiling cheerfully, if resignedly, up at the rain, on a visit to Manchester in 1968. Interestingly one of the few subjects whom Arnold struggled to get beneath the surface of was Margaret Thatcher. It seems that Thatcher's desire to be shown standing in a rather stiff and staid pose was a decision that even Arnold couldn't sway.
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