Bert Stern, a celebrated commercial and fashion photographer who kept a home in Sag Harbor for many years, died on Wednesday, June 26 at his home in Manhattan. He was 83 years old.
Mr. Stern was recognized along with a group of photographers including Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Mark Shaw, as redefining advertising photography with their clear and uncluttered images.
He is perhaps best known for a series of photographs he made with Marilyn Monroe just weeks before she took her life. The photos, shot for Vogue magazine, were particularly raw, noted an obituary in the New York Times, and many showed the actress unclothed or posing behind transparent scarves.
Mr. Stern was also responsible for the iconic photographs that accompanied publicity for the film “Lolita,” which starred Sue Lyons as the provocative — and young — title character. Those photos, which feature Lyons wearing a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses, were shot in Sag Harbor. In fact the glasses were purchased at the Sag Harbor Variety Store when Mr. Stern spotted them in the store window while he was walking down Main Street the day of the shoot.
In a June 2002 interview with The Sag Harbor Express, Mr. Stern said the glasses “embodied the spirit of Lolita.”
“The idea of Lolita is candy, bubblegum and flags,” said Mr. Stern in the interview. “When I saw those 39-cent glasses in the window of the five-and-ten, I knew it was something Lolita would wear.”
He called the glasses — which never appeared in the movie — “a simple American icon.”
Mr. Stern said he shot Lyons’ photographs on the hill at Pierson High School.
“Sag Harbor is not the easiest place to shoot,” he said, “the simplicity makes it difficult.”
Mr. Stern was born in Brooklyn, NY, on October 3, 1929. He dropped out of high school, and served in the U.S. Army as a photographer on a military base in Japan.
He later worked for Look magazine, starting in the mail room, and grew to become a successful commercial photographer for magazines and advertisers.
Mr. Stern is survived by his longtime friend, Shanna Laumeister; two daughters, Trista and Susannah; a son Bret; a sister, Diane Schlanger; and three grandchildren. His marriage to the dancer Allegra Kent, who was the mother of his children, ended in divorce in 1975.