Andre de Dienes was born in Hungary in 1913. At the age of nineteen, he decided to leave his native country and traveled all over Europe and North Africa, finally settling in Paris, where he became interested in photography. In 1938, he settled in the United States and later became a citizen. He became a freelance photographer for a while but later decided to follow his own instincts and purposely refused all photographic assignments in order to be able to devote himself to the kind of work he most enjoyed. In particular, he wished to photograph nudes. Gradually, he became so involved in this subject and its techniques that most of his time had been given up to it.
Many of de Dienes nudes were impersonal artistic nudes photographed in nature. He traveled extensively just to find the right backgrounds for his models, and the desert and seashore were a few of the locations he found especially suited to his style of photography. Concerning his work, Andre once wrote: “Every picture I have taken of the nude was for the sole purpose of expressing my feelings for the beautiful”. When giving advice to other photographers interested in this type of photography, he cautioned them: “I ask you not to disgrace the nude with your camera. Respect it, express its beauty, exercise and better your beautiful emotions. Try not to photograph just naked girls; try to give meaning to your pictures; be proud of the photos you take. Do not abuse the luck and privilege of having a girl pose for you in the nude. Do not photograph nudes as I do, but try your own techniques, give in to your own feelings. Try to create something entirely new, abstract, in any way, as long as it remains within the bounds of decency.”
De Dienes is also well known as one of the first major photographers to photograph Marilyn Monroe. Andre and Marilyn traveled extensively together in Dec. 1945, and during this time he took hundreds of photos of her, some of which later ended up on magazine covers throughout the world. Andre de Dienes was also a regular contributor of photos and articles to several photography magazines during the late 40’s and 1950’s. He also contributed to Playboy during the early years of the magazine. In fact, in the very first issue of Playboy (Dec. 1953), a nude photo of glamour model Diane Hunter that had been taken by de Dienes was featured in the back pages. Diane Hunter would later be photographed by Bruno Bernard, and his pinup of her would be selected by Playboy to make her Miss Nov. 1954 (see my glamour models page for more info).
Other actresses and glamour models that de Dienes photographed include: Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Anne Francis, Leslie Caron, Jill St. John, Julie Newmar, Barbara Peyton, Yvette Mimieux, Ruth Roman, Carroll Baker, Anita Ekberg, Joan Bradshaw, Pat Crowley, Jeanne Carmen, Judy Crowder, Sara Shane, Arline Hunter, Kathleen Crowley, June Wilkinson, Joyce Winthrop, Marianne Gaba, Colleen Miller, Bobbie Shaw, Jean Peters, Vikki Dougan, Stephanie Griffin, Kathleen Hughes, Joan Tyler and Joan Kerr.
Camera equipment used by the photographer included 4″x 5″ view cameras (the Graflex, Graflex D, Auto Graflex and the Linhof Technika) and a Twin Lens Reflex (the Rolleiflex). At least one of Andre de Dienes photo books, “The Nude”, was shot entirely with his Rolleiflex, which was also the Medium Format camera of choice by most glamour photographers back in the early to mid 50’s. Peter Gowland, Bunny Yeager, Bruno Bernard, Frank Bez, Danny Rouzer, and Sam Wu all used the Rolleiflex during this period. The Rolleiflex uses 120 film which gives an image size of 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″. Like most photographers, his was equipped with the Zeiss Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens, which was highly praised for its sharpness. Andre made sure to always shoot at f/11 or f/16 in order to gain good depth of field and maximum sharpness. Consequently his indoor shots were usually taken at shutter speeds ranging between 1 to 6 seconds and his outdoor shots were usually taken at between 1/50 to 1/500th of a second. He often liked to use Plus-X film in his Rolleiflex due to its fine grain.
Andre de Dienes was one of Bunny Yeager’s early influences, and I believe she followed de Dienes technique of shooting at f/11 with her own Rolleiflex, even for nudes shot indoors using available light.
One technique for which de Dienes became well known was his creative way of combining images from two separate negatives onto one photo. He would sometimes spend an entire day on just one or two such photos, dodging and burning the light from the enlarger until he got the seamless effect he was looking for on the developed print. The end result was always a beautiful fantasy image.Andre de Dienes was born in 1913 in Turia, Transylvania (now Romania). Following his mother’s suicide he left home at 15 and traveled throughout Europe, mostly by foot, before ending up in Tunisia, North Africa, where he worked odd jobs, learned to paint, and purchased his first camera, a 35mm Retina.In 1933 de Dienes arrived in Paris to study art and bought his first Rolleiflex camera. Fascinated with taking pictures, he made a living selling photographs to publishing companies, including La Humanite ( a Communist newspaper) and worked for The Associated Press until 1936 when famous Parisian couturier, Captain Molyneux, encouraged de Dienes to become a fashion photographer.
In 1938, with the help of Esquire magazine editor, Arnold Gingrich, he emigrated to the US and settled in New York to work for Esquire, Vogue, Life, and Montgomery Ward. De Dienes spent his vacations traveling parts of the US, taking pictures of the scenic grandeur of the Western United States, and especially the Hopi, Navajo, and Apache Indians.Dissatisfied with the restrictions of fashion photography, de Dienes moved to Hollywood in 1944 to pursue to pursue his real passion of photographing nudes and outdoor scenes. An emotional and passionate photographer, de Dienes’ objective was to see the beauty in nature and in an effort to make his photographs as true to life as possible, he never retouched them. He believed that to take good photographs, one must have great patience, imagination and endurance, and the capacity to reveal both truth and beauty.
De Dienes’ association with Marilyn Monroe began in 1945 when he hired her for her first modeling job at age 19. A five week road trip photographing the young Norma Jeane across California, Nevada, and New Mexico resulted in a love affair and numerous magazine covers around the world. Their working relationship continued until 1953. Today, de Dienes’ images of Monroe are considered by most to be the best studies ever taken of her.De Dienes’ work on nudes has generated twenty-four books, published in the US, England, and Germany. Marilyn Mon Amoura was published in 1985 by St. Martinas Press, and Marilyn in 2002 by Taschen (Newsweek featured the three volume book in a six page cover story). Married twice but with no children, de Dienes died in 1985.