Marilyn Monroe stars in new subway exhibit

Jose Nunez, a photo student from the Bronx, Jose Nunez, a photo student from the Bronx, stops to look at the new MTA Arts for Transit exhibit featuring Marilyn Monroe at the Bryant Park 42nd Street station. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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Even harried rush-hour commuters are stopping to gaze at the natural beauty of Marilyn Monroe.

Fifty years after her death, the Hollywood icon is captured in quintessential New York City moments in a new exhibit of rarely seen photographs.

A series of eight black-and-white photos decorate a wall inside the 42nd Street-Bryant Park subway station. A blowup of the famous shot of the starlet standing over a subway grate, her white skirt billowing, is displayed outside the entrance to the Times Square subway complex.

Photographer Sam Shaw snapped the pictures of Monroe during a lively Manhattan outing in 1957: rowing a boat on the Central Park pond; window shopping on Fifth Avenue; at a vendor stand, dressing up a hot dog with ketchup while wearing white gloves.

"I never saw these before," said Kelly Reyes, 22, of Brooklyn, pausing between trains. "I'm a fan. She defines fabulous."

"They're beautiful," Lisa Mayo, 51, of Austin, Texas, said of the photos. "Marilyn Monroe has such a natural grace about her. No pretension. She doesn't really know how beautiful she is."

"She's an original," said Andy Kalivaci, 27, of Brooklyn. "No plastic surgery. Just a natural beauty. I never saw these photos. They make me feel good about the good old days when people knew how to dress."

Jose Nunez, 20, of the Bronx, a photojournalism student at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, marveled at Shaw's work.

"Just the composition and how the photographer captured the life of that time is amazing," he said. "It's like a natural occurrence that today we don't do. Nowadays, everybody is taking photos and it's more about themselves."

The exhibit -- part of the MTA's "Arts for Transit" program, also remembers Shaw, who was born on the Lower East Side in 1912. Shaw became a Hollywood studio photographer in the 1950s, when he befriended Monroe and other stars. He died in 1999.

The exhibit opened Thursday and will hang for one year.

Lester Burg, manager of Arts For Transit, said the exhibit is "a way to make the commuting experience more pleasant. Hopefully, commuters will see a little of the photos each day and really notice them."

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