Bruno Bernard

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Bruno Bernard (6 June 1912 - 10 March 1987) was an American photographer best known for Pin-Up and glamour photography of stars like Marilyn Monroe.

Bernard was born into poverty on 6 June, 1912 in Berlin, Germany.[1] He was put into an orphanage by parents who could not afford to support him. In 1923, his parents gave him a Rolleiflex camera, which led to a lifelong interest in photography.[2] He attended Kiel University, where, in 1934, he earned a doctorate in criminal psychology[2]. He became general secretary of a Jewish youth organization, which led to his name appearing on a Gestapo hit list. In 1937, he fled to America from Nazi Germany, claiming to German authorities that he was leaving the country to continue his graduate studies. He did attend the University of California, Berkeley where he planned to continue his education but soon became interested in the arts. In 1940 he became a directorial apprentice in the Actors Workshop directed by Max Reinhart.

Unable to get a job as a directory, however, Bruno returned to his interest in photography.[2] In 1938 he set up a darkroom in the basement of his Los Angeles apartment. Inspired by his background in psychology, what he learned about directing, and collaboration with Alberto Vargas, Bruno developed a unique portrait style that he called the "posed candid"; a style that evolved into what we know today as the Pin-Up photography. Bernard prefered moderate use of artificial light. He prefered natural light like sun at the beach, and sometimes added a flash to his light concept. He never had any formal training in photography and credited his success to "two good teachers, trial and error".[2]

By 1940, Bruno's basement darkroom had become his first studio. He started out taking photos of the wives and children of the directors and producers he had come to know through his apprenticeship. As he began making money, he opened a proper studio at 9055 Sunset Blvd. As word spread he soon came to the attention of agents and other Hollywood professionals who sent actresses his way for photo shoots. He became known as Bernard of Hollywood.[2]. Bernard is credited with discovering Norma Jean, who later became known as Marilyn Monroe and is said to have told Bernard, "Remember, Bernie, you started it all".[3]

In the 1950s Bernard fought obscenity charges that ended with a case in the U.S. Supreme Court. He submitted as part of his defense a letter from U.S. Secretary of Defense, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a fan of Bernard's pinup photography. The letter thanks Bernard the morale-building effect of his pinups during WWII. Bernard's daughter, Susan Bernard, has made the case that the pinup style popularized by Bruno Bernard and his friend Alberto Vargas was "celebrating and empowering women rather than exploiting them".[3]

In the 1960s he moved back to Berlin. He reported as photo reporter from the Eichmann trial in Israel for the German magazine Der Spiegel.

In 1984, Bernard became the first still photographer to be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with a 50-year retrospective of his work. His photo of Marilyn Monroe's wind-blown dress from The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn in White, was selected as the "Symbol of the Century" by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1999. The same photograph was also chosen by the International Center of Photography as one of the "20 Unforgettable Photographs".[4]

Bruno Bernard died of cancer on 10 March 1987 at the age 75 in Los Angeles, California.



  • Bruno Bernard, Pin-Ups: A Step Beyond: a Portfolio of Breathtaking Beauties (Los Angeles: Bernard of Hollywood Publishing Co., 1950)
  • Bruno Bernard, Bernard's Israel (Vallentine Mitchell & Co., Ltd., 1962) ISBN 978-0853030928
  • Bruno Bernard, Israel: Bernard's Photographic Impression (Editions Steinzatzky, 1964)
  • Bruno Bernard, Requiem for Marilyn (Kensal Press, 1986) ISBN 978-0946041527