Photographs enable us to chart and document our personal evolution, from toddler smiles surrounded by discarded wrapping paper on an early Christmas morning, to wrinkles and cake at an eightieth birthday celebration. They are the moments that make up a life, captured and frozen in time forever.
It is also said that a picture is worth a thousand words. With that in mind, what about the pictures that remain unseen - the many thousands of words that go unspoken?
In a world of official media images with which connoisseurs of popular culture are overtly familiar, is not the prospect of the untold stories – i.e. that which we have not yet glanced – far more compelling?
As we approach the 50th anniversary of her tragic passing, an exclusive exhibition is being launched in London this month, displaying early images taken of the legendary Marilyn Monroe.
This exclusive collection, based on the book Marilyn: Intimate Exposures compiled by Susan Bernard, daughter of world-renowned photographer, Bruno Bernard, is a celebration of both the Hollywood star herself and the work of the late Bernard - the man famed for having "discovered" Monroe, as well as shooting images of some of the most important women in film history, such as Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Sofia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor.
When we think about Marilyn, immediately we envision the iconography of her celebrity: bleached hair, womanly curves, confidence, and a personality larger-than-life. Those are the pictures we have seen, the images we remember - the published pictorials and promotional press packs.
However, one photographer captured Monroe before the allure of Hollywood transformed her into the character etched into our collective consciousness. Back when she was just a girl named Norma Jeane...
In 1946, Berlin-born Bruno Bernard caught sight of a pretty girl as he was leaving a dentist appointment. As a lifelong photography enthusiast and budding glamour photographer, Bernard invited her to take part in a "strictly professional" photo shoot. That girl was Norma Jeane Mortenson, or as she would later be known: Marilyn Monroe.
Bernard continued to photograph Monroe throughout her glittering career, capturing some of the most celebrated and tragic moments of her life, from dazzling smiles on the set of The Seven Year Itch (1955), to a tearful escape from paparazzi in the wake of her divorce from Joe DiMaggio.
What is fascinating about these exclusive photos is that they reveal Norma Jean as the quintessential girl-next-door. She is unmistakably beautiful in these early exposures, but this Marilyn is far more relatable than the level of seemingly unattainable beauty she later aspired to; she could be anyone - we could be her.
This is a rare glimpse of an innocent Monroe, before her ascent to untold stardom and all that came with it. You get a sense of fragility – a hope to be seen and understood – a stark contrast to the ballsy blonde that completed her metamorphosis.
The exhibition, which will run until 9 September 2012, is being held at the Proud Chelsea gallery. Entry is free, and Susan Bernard will open the launch with a reading and book signing.
Monroe is said to have once commented to Bernard, "Remember, Bernie, you started it all." You certainly did, Bernie – thanks to you we can all celebrate the visual birth of a true Hollywood legend.
Words by Emma Champion.
Marilyn: Intimate Exposures Photographs by Bruno Bernard, Proud Chelsea, 1st August – 9th September 2012, proud.co.uk