George Allen Aarons was born in Manhattan on Oct. 29, 1916. He was reared in New York and New Hampshire and was an Army photographer in World War II. His twin brother, Peter, was killed in the war. Afterward, he and his Army buddy Bill Mauldin, the cartoonist, headed for Hollywood.
Slim Aarons, who won a Purple Heart, said combat had taught him that the only beach worth landing on was ”decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun.” He opened a bureau for LIFE magazine in Rome, where he vowed to make a career out of photographing beautiful people, doing it his own way with natural surroundings, little makeup and no artificial light. In 1951 Slim Aarons married a young LIFE employee, Lorita Dewart.
The photojournalist who traveled the world to capture the essence of the rich and famous and made a career out of what he called “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places,” died at the age of 89, 2006.
The family for many years lived in Katonah, N.Y., spending winters in Gstaad or Palm Beach, and summers on the French or Italian Rivieras. In New York Mr. Aarons photographed all of Leland Hayward’s stage productions. In 1974 he published ”A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of the Good Life.” A sequel, ”Once Upon a Time,” in part a reprise of the first book, was published in 2003. In 2005 a third book, ”A Place in the Sun,” came out.
Slim Aaron’s most celebrated image was shot on New Year’s Eve of 1957 in the Crown Room at Romanoff’s restaurant in Hollywood. Called ”The Kings of Hollywood,” it showed Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart — what Smithsonian magazine called ”a Mount Rushmore of stardom” and the novelist Louis Auchincloss ”the very image of American he-men.”
The men are enjoy a laugh together in the picture. Mr. Aarons sometimes said he did not know why. In all truth, those chortling stars in ”The Kings of Hollywood,” Mr. Aarons admitted later, were really laughing at him. His good friend, Mr. Clark Gable, loved to jokingly recall (at Aarons' expense) just how bad he thought Slim's acting was in a small movie part he helped him land. Truth is, Slim Aarons butchered his two small scenes take after take. Clearly he had a great rapport with the stars-- When Jimmy Stewart was approached by strangers, he joked, "No, I am Slim Aarons."
Slim Aarons also shared a story on working with Hitcock here--
"You ever see the movie Rear Window? That's my apartment. Because the protagonist was supposed to be a writer-- very few people know this. The protagonist was a LIFE writer who'd been hurt somewhere, either in the war or an accident-- because it was written by a LIFE writer."
Slim Aarons was hired by Hitchcock ("Hitch" as he called him) to photograph the detailed back-shots of NYC apartment buildings that eventually became the set built for them film. Hitch loved the shots, and in a strange twist of fate, the protagonist character was changed from a writer to a photographer.
Slim Aarons' shot of Oscar De La Renta above from February 1985. The famous designer relaxes in the living room of his apartment the Casa de Madera in the resort of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.
Slim Aarons' shot of Mies, circa 1960: German born American architect Mies Van Der Rohe (1886 - 1969) on the rooftop of a skyscraper in Chicago.
During a career that spanned more than five decades, Aarons photographed many of the most famous faces of the late 20th century, including Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and the Kennedys. He captured, better than anyone, the affluent at ease. And to hear Slim tell the story behind his most famous works is well, priceless.
"I knew everyone." he said in an interview with The Independent in 2002. "They would invite me to one of their parties because they knew I wouldn’t hurt them. I was one of them." –Slim Aarons
Above is Slim Aarons' famous shot of Marilyn Monroe-- he talks about the shoot here.
"There was a time when in the movies, you couldn't show her without being covered from head to foot. And so what I did was, I got the dress out of wardrobe from the studios, and then I went down... and (got) the black net lace and I covered her in head to foot in black net lace so we could get rid of the censors in Hollywood. Marilyn would do anything for photographers in those days. And Marilyn was an amazing person. She wasn't what they'd call a 'pure girl', you know what I mean? She wasn't brought up that way-- she just learned to survive. But she knew one thing-- whenever she went with a guy, she knew the guy wanted her. She had that innate thing-- but she had that same quality of being just a little girl. She'd just made a movie called Asphalt Jungle, and so I said-- did she have any fan mail? I had to think quickly... she's got barrels of fan mail. She says to me-- what do you want me to do Slim? I said-- I want you to think of the nicest possible thing that can happen to you-- but with your eyes."
Noel Coward and Truman Capote used words to record this rarefied universe, but Mr. Aarons’ photographs in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and LIFE showed it. "Attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places" was his mantra.
Thomas Taylor and Bing Crosby hamming it up on Pebble Beach golf course 1977, photographed by Slim Aarons.
Slim Aarons gained entree to villas, yachts and chalets by becoming one of the crowd. He told of sailing with Katharine Hepburn and seeing a drowning man. After being rescued, the man pulled out a camera and started shooting Miss Hepburn. She threatened to break it on his head. Mr. Aarons stood by, welcomed as a valued guest, who happened to be a photographer.
The legendary photographer and personality-- Slim Aarons, on the right. Love the monogram below the pocket on the chest~ very chic.