Bert Stern, who is probably most famous for his photographs of Marilyn Monroe's Last Sitting for Vogue, passed away last Wednesday at his home in Manhattan at the age of 83.
Including Irving Penn--whom Stern cited as an influence--and Richard Avedon, Stern was one of a generation of advertising and commercial photographers who changed the way photographs were shot and used, in the process simplifying and making the photograph the primary language of advertising and magazine illustration. Up until then, photographs were usually overwhelmed by type.
Outside of the Monroe series, Stern's most breakthrough work was considered his ad for Smirnoff Vodka. His close-up of a martini in the Egyptian desert with a pyramid out of focus and suggesting a shimmering mirage in the background was considered a breakthrough in advertising illustration. In fact it was no other than curator Robert Sobieszek who deemed Stern's martini photograph "the most influential break with traditional advertising photography." By the way, the Smirnoff campaign was Stern's first assignment.
Stern's work is held by many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the George Eastman House.