Emily Berl’s new series has led me to believe that LA is something like a Where’s Wally of normal people dotted around in a sea of Marilyn Monroe impersonators. It isn’t, of course; the women in her photographs are but a select few in a whole city full of people seemingly obsessed with the rich and famous, so their decision to impersonate a woman who came to be seen as the archetypal American dream shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Emily refined her search for her subjects by choosing to photograph only those who considered Marilyn to be a central part of their lives, which definitely adds to the strangeness of the images. Her subjects can be seen making themselves up, getting dressed and posing (there’s lots of posing), acting as a voyeuristic glimpse into the kind of alternate universe that is LA. The photographs are all the more fascinating for it, though, and the potent blend of hopeful desperation and narcissism in them makes for an intoxicating mix.