The very first professional modeling shot taken of Marilyn Monroe (Still known only as Norma Jean Baker, at the time the picture was taken) has resurfaced. The photograph, originally taken as a test shot, is currently being offered for sale by a private owner, through Henry Aldridge & Son Auction House in Wiltshire, England, reports Western Daily Press.
Before Ms. Baker was launched into superstardom as Marilyn Monroe, she was just another young girl pursuing a modeling career and, as such, she needed a portfolio and, for that, she needed a photographer. Along came Joseph Jasgur, also young and fresh on the scene, but with a photographic talent that would launch Marilyn Monroe’s career as well, as his own. Jasgur would photograph Ms. Monroe on the beach for that shoot, a set that was also sold by Henry Aldridge & Son Auction House, last year.
Before the shoot could be arranged, Jasgur needed a test shot of Marilyn. The aspiring model was sent to Jasgur’s studio by Hollywood’s Blue Book Model Agency, but, when Ms. Monroe arrived, Jasgur was short on time and in a hurry for other engagements. The young photographer rushed Ms. Monroe into a nearby alley and took that first shot.
“It’s a unique negative and print of Norma Jean, part of some informal test shots that preceded the formal shoot,” said Andrew Aldridge, owner of the auction house. “This photo offers a unique glimpse of the young girl who was to become the global phenomenon that was Marilyn Monroe.”
Daily Mail reports that Marilyn stopped at a nearby diner for a hamburger lunch, following the shoot. Noteworthy, because it wouldn’t be long after that innocuous meal that Marilyn Monroe’s fame would prevent her from making such stops in random diners.
As it would happen, Marilyn Monroe came to the Blue Book Model Agency by mere chance, as a result of her first marriage to merchant marine, Jim Dougherty. While her husband was away, Ms. Monroe worked at Radioplane Munitions Factory, where she inspected parachutes and assisted with spraying fire retardants on airplane parts.
Army captain Ronald Reagan assigned David Conover of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit to go to the factory and shoot photos of young women helping with the war effort. It was hoped that the pictures, which would be published in Yank, the Army Weekly magazine, would boost morale for troops engaged in the war, far from home. There is still some dispute as to whether photographs of Ms. Monroe were ever published in Yank, but the photos prompted Conover to urge Ms. Monroe to apply to the modeling agency, where she would eventually come to work with photographer Joseph Jasgur.
That first test shot and negative of Marilyn Monroe, valued at $3,040, will be sold on February 14.
More history for Marilyn Monroe aficionados: A transcript of her 1955 New Year’s resolutions was recently uncovered.