This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Milton Greene was the best photographer of women I ever knew," declared Richard Avedon. Marilyn Monroe agreed. After their first session together in 1953, she sent Greene two dozen roses and a note saying his pictures were the most beautiful of her she had ever seen. Over the next four years she would pose for him more than 50 times. Greene's skill lay in his unfussy approach (he used to say, "If you can't light it with one light, then you can't light it") and ability to establish an intimate rapport with his subjects. Monroe felt so comfortable with Greene and his wife that she moved into their Weston, Conn., home for a time.
Born in 1922, Greene apprenticed under Harper's Bazaar's Louise Dahl-Wolf but came into his own as a photographer for Life. He also was renowned for his fashion photography and was counted as an equal of such cutting-edge lensmen as Avedon and Irving Penn. Greene died of cancer in 1985 at age 63.
Now an impressive chunk of Greene's work -- about 75,000 images -- is set to be auctioned by Profiles in History on July 27 for an anonymous collector who purchased the images from Polish investors who, in turn, gained control of a share of Greene's estate after a business deal with the family went bad. (Joshua Greene, who controls the rest of his father's works, made repeated attempts to restore the archive but was rebuffed by the collector.) Mostly Kodak Ektachrome slides, the images are being offered with copyright, something of a rarity. The sale includes more than 3,700 shots of Monroe; many never have been seen publicly.
While the artistic significance of Greene's work is clear, its monetary value is trickier to calculate. Profiles owner Joe Maddalena thinks the "once in a lifetime" collection could sell for more than $1 million, in line with some expert valuations of Greene's work.