Bert Stern


Bert Stern, Smirnoff, Great Pyramid of Giza, 1955

Bert Stern, the great US advertising photographer, has died at age 83. Stern was a leading member of the Mad Men generation and a cast a giant shadow in his field.  There’s even a doco on him called Bert Stern: the original Mad Man.

If you google his name you will mainly find his sexy Marilyn Monroe shoot called The Last Sitting (she wasn’t sitting!) but he was much more than that. Stern was a prominent commercial photographer whose work appeared in all the magazines during the great Madison Avenue era of the fifties and sixties. This was the time of the advertising notion of “the big idea” – the single compelling concept in an ad campaign – the DDB Volkswagen Beetle ads are the timeless example.

The image above was a Smirnoff vodka ad, shot on location in Egypt. Can you think of anything more Mad Men than a vodka Martini? It’s a clever photograph, shot during the ‘magic hour’ at dusk, using the lens effect of the liquid to reverse the shape of the pyramid – two opposing triangles. But why didn’t he use a triangular Martini glass?


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