Phil Stern, photographer to the stars, dies

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Photographer Phil Stern, known for his candid shots of Hollywood stars and jazz musicians, has died.

Stern died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 95 after an extended hospital stay.

Stern worked as a combat photographer for the Army newspaper “Stars and Stripes” during World War II, where he served as a U.S. Army Ranger in the North African and Italian campaigns.

He settled in Los Angeles after the war and became a staff photographer for Look magazine. He also worked as one of Life magazine’s top Hollywood photographers.

Among the iconic stars he photographed were Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, James Dean and John Wayne. He also shot album covers including for Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Stern was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States, and grew up in New York.

Stern did not believe that he or other photographers could be considered artists. “Matisse I ain’t,” he is widely quoted as saying.

His work has been displayed for decades at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles.