Sam Shaw

Sam Shaw, born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was a man of the world, with a passion for art, photography and film. He began his artistic career as a sculptor and painter, while working in the atelier of Romare Bearden. He moved on to become the political cartoonist for the Daily Worker and then art director for the Brooklyn Eagle. In the beginning of the 1940's he was hired as a reporter and photojournalist for Collier's Magazine. Sam became known for his reportages of coal miners in West Virginia and stories on New Orleans jazz musicians, many of whom became his lifelong friends. By 1951, he had started working in the film industry as a special photographer; among his most celebrated images are the ones on the set of the movie "The Seven Year Itch", such as the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate.

Sam traveled to many cities in the U.S. and Europe, absorbing local culture through his camera. He became intrigued with Cinécitta (Cinema City), considered the second Hollywood, located in Italy. After returning to the United States Sam became more involved in film and worked closely with Billy Wilder, Anthony Quinn, Marlon Brando and many other cinema legends. He worked closely with John Cassevettes producing a series of films where the actors created their characters on screen through improvisation.

Sam Shaw is known for the celebrated photographs he took of Marilyn Monroe, whom he met in the early 1950's, when he was working as a photographer on the set of "Viva Zapata". They became close friends and Marilyn drove Sam to the set every morning. The period 1954 to 1958 was a time when Marilyn tried to shed her blonde sex bombshell image and moved to New York to study acting. Sam's photographs show the screen icon in some of her happiest, off-guard moments, cuddling with playwright Arthur Miller, who became her third husband in 1956, shopping in Manhattan or splashing at the beach in Amagansett, NY. In 1954, it was Sam who suggested the famous sequence of Marilyn's skirt blown up over a street grate, in "The Seven Year Itch". When asked about Sam, Marilyn said, "He always makes me look my best". When asked about Marilyn, Sam explained, "I just want to show this fascinating woman, with her guard down, at work, at ease offstage, during joyous moments in her life and as she often was - alone". In January 2014, the publication by Newsweek of Marilyn's scrapbook disclosed further details about their personal relationship.

Sam Shaw's photographic archives cover over 60 years of American history, from social essays, film documentation, icon figures and legendary personalities. His work has been exhibited internationally, in museums, galleries and art fairs, has been included in numerous traveling exhibitions and is in important institutional and private collections.

Photographs © The Estate of Sam Shaw

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2016 - Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography, City Gallery, Regensburg, Germany

  • 2016 - Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography, Opelvillen Arts and Cultural Foundation, Russelsheim, Germany

  • 2015 - Sam Shaw: 60 Years of Photography, Cascaus Cultural Center, Cascais, Portugal

  • 2005 - Marilyn Monroe: The New York Years, Westwood Gallery, NYC

  • 1999 - Sam Shaw: A Tribute, Duke Ellington Centennial Firm Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

  • 1995 - 100 Years of Cinema: Sam Shaw’s Hollywood, Martin Gropias Museum, Berlin, Germany

  • 1993 - The Cassavetes By Sam Shaw, Parco Gallery, Tokyo

Group Exhibitions

  • 2016 - Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, The Wilson, Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, England

  • 2015 - Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, National Portrait Gallery, London

  • 2014 - 1955-1965 An Era of Cultural Revolution, Westwood Gallery, NYC

  • 2012 - Marilyn, The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum, Florence, Italy

  • 2011 - Paris Blues Revisited: Romare Bearden, Albert Murray, Sam Shaw, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York City

  • 2010 - The Rebels: Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn, Museo Nazionale Del Cinema, Turin, Italy

  • 2009 - America the Beautiful, Staley-Wise Gallery, NYC

  • 2009 - Audrey and Marilyn, Proud Gallery, London

  • 2008 - Hollywood Portraits, Kaizen Gallery, Lausanne, Switzerland

  • 2008 - Stars on Stage, Alinari Museum, Florence, Italy

  • 2007 - Images of Marilyn, Silver K Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

  • 2005 - I Want to Be Loved By You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe, The Brooklyn Museum, NYC

  • 2005 - Hollywood Portraits of the 50’s and 60’s, Art Deco Basel, Basel, Switzerland

  • 2003 - Marilyn Monroe: Life of a Legend, County Hall Gallery, London

  • 2002 - Marilyn Monroe: The Movies and New York, First Tribeca Film Festival, NYC

  • 1999 - Alfred Hitchcock Centenary, Museum of Modern Art, NYC

  • 1993 - John Cassavetes, Vienna International Film Festival, Vienna, Austria

  • 1993 - Cassavetes, Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

  • 1992 - Marilyn Monroe: Aphrodite of Hollywood, Troia Film Festival, Setubal, Portugal

  • 1992 - Marilyn Monroe: Aphrodite of Hollywood, San Sebastian Film Festival, Thessaloniki, Greece

  • 1989 - Marilyn Monroe and Hollywood, Shibuya Seibu Seed Hall, Tokyo

  • 1989 - John Cassavetes, Miami Film Festival, Miami, Florida

  • 1972 - Marilyn Monroe: The Legend and the Truth, David Stuart Gallery, Los Angeles, California

  • 1968 - Career of an Actor: Anthony Quinn, Museum of Modern Art, NYC

  • 1954 - Viva Zapata: Marlon Brando, Elia Kazan, Anthony Quinn, Venice Biennale, Venice

  • Marilyn—The New York Years, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Marilyn Among Friends, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • The Joy of Marilyn: In the Camera Eye, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Sophia Loren: In the Camera Eye, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Brando: In the Camera Eye, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Marilyn Monroe As the Girl: The Candid Picture Story of the Making of the Seven Year Itch, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • John Wayne: In the Camera Eye, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Cassavetes’ Streams, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • Sam Shaw: A Personal Point of View, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • 100 Photos of Sam Shaw for Press Freedom, Photographs by Sam Shaw

  • John Cassavetes, Autoportraits, Photographs by Sam Shaw