At the age of 97, Bill Carroll, is the last living photographer of Norma Jeane. For the first time in 65 years, these rare and important photographs shot in 1945 are available, hand signed and numbered from a limited edition, exclusively from the Andrew Weiss Gallery. Even Marilyn could not have imagined that day on the beach that she would become Hollywood’s most legendary star. The beginning of the story starts here…
Bill Carroll, fresh from high school, was working as a dishwasher at a California health resort for a $1 a day, plus room and board. One day while on break, “I picked up CameraCraft, an arty photo magazine published in San Francisco. On the back pages were the usual advertisements, but one ad caught my eye. Sell your pictures to magazines for $2 to $5 each. That was much better than washing dishes and I took off.” He became a successful photographer and years later would own Ansco, the first color film processing lab on the west coast.
As a promotion for Ansco and the Universal Camera, a counter display card needed to be made with an original photograph to “illustrate the quality of our color prints and photographic ability of a new Universal Camera.”
“As luck would have it,” a friendly client of the lab showed me some slides of a “recent informal shoot that David Conover, (another client) had completed with a personal friend named Norma Jeane. These pictures displayed a young woman of outstanding charm. Not totally beautiful but fresh in a most delightful girl-next-door manner. And that was exactly the type I wanted to decorate the counter display for my laboratory services.” And so it was, the unknown model was chosen for a one day shoot to take place on the beach near Malibu.
Bill reflects after many decades, “She was impressive, to say the least. My day at the beach was a rewarding visit with a delightful young woman who was articulate, intelligent and eager to do the very best she could. Her conversation was relative and opinions expressed were those of a person who has something genuine to offer. Norma Jeane was a good model and a friendly person with whom to share a hamburger.”
The pictures taken on that day are history. However more than 40 years were to pass before Bill realized the young model was Marilyn Monroe. The many “slide mounted images were buried amid photographic files containing thousands of images. They were unimportant until I read about the 1987 London auction of informal Marilyn Monroe photographs by David Conover… she was wearing some of the same clothing used during our shoot….only then did I become aware of the Monroe association.” Bill’s story ends here, but Marilyn’s is just beginning.