When photographer Emily Berl moved to Los Angeles in 2012, she began to notice a familiar face around her, printed on T-shirts, murals and magazines. It was the face of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. And soon she began to find Marilyn not only as an image in art and on products, but in living faces around the world.

“The women in this project came from all different backgrounds and had all different personalities, but what bound them was their interest in Marilyn. Some are major fans, others are professional impersonators and tribute artists who come at it from a more business approach. But one thing I heard over and over again in my interviews with these women was the desire to ‘protect’ Marilyn’s legacy. They wanted to make sure she wasn’t seen as just a sex symbol but rather a woman whose legitimate accomplishments are remembered by history. I began to see a lot of their work as Marilyn as a way of protecting her and her legacy,” Berl told In Sight.

Before starting this project, which resulted in her book “Marilyn,” Berl had knew that Monroe was a symbol of glamour but learned more about her as the work progressed.

“I have learned so much about Marilyn, and I’ve gained immense respect for who she was and what she means to people. She was a lot smarter and a lot more complicated than history often gives her credit for. She was an avid reader, and she took control of her career by founding her own production company at a time when that was virtually unheard of. Most of the women in this project see themselves in parts of Marilyn, and I think a lot of people do as well. After working on this series for so long, I can definitely understand why such a large group of people are drawn to her, even so many years after her death.”

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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