Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Key Master Photographers of the Stage and Screen in the early 1900s

Key Photographers that captured stage and screen in the late 19th and early 20th Century. This article is composed of excerpts from, and contains links to, "Broadway Photographs - Art Photography & The American Stage 1900-1930", the work of Dr. David S. Shields, McClintock Professor at the University of South Carolina. Used with permission. Many of the photographs referenced by Shields in his research are from our Jay Parrino's The Mint Archive. You can find additional photos by these photographers on our Jay Parrino eBay site.

Natacha Rambova
Jay Parrino Collection
James Abbe - 1917-1940 - NY
Abbe's theatrical work was one of three photographic specialties he cultivated during his career. He also became an expert movie still photographer in 1920 and an important photojournalist in the 1930s. Brought to NY by magazine publishers interested in his experiments for using photographs as illustrations for narratives, Abbe won overnight renown in 1919 for his stage portraits of performers in costume. Enhancing the available stage lighting with a battery of portable lamps, he made intensely vivid images suggestive of interrupted stories. Until 1923 it was rare to attend a serious theatrical performance in New York without character portraits printed on unusual papers on display in the lobby. He did contract work with magazines, and after 1920 with film companies. Read More »

Norma Talmadge
Shields Collection
Charles Albin - 1910-1929 - NY

For a painter-photographer, Charles Albin was singularly intent on maintaining the distinct qualities of the genres. He favored fidelity in portraiture and the mechanical approximation of natural lighting. An ardent student of cinematic techniques, even when he worked as a portraitist, he regularly corresponded with the NEW YORK TIMES critics of motion pictures, calling attention to fine work by cinematographers. His July 17, 1921 remarks on the photography of Rex Ingram's 'The Conquering Power' is telling about Albin's aesthetic values: 'Without resort to the idiotic fuzziness, whereby many a fool director or cameraman imagines that he produces an 'artistic shot,' this cameraman has achieved a most beautiful waxiness, if I may use the word, never sacrificing essential sharpness. In his interiors he has produced masterpieces of lighting, pure and simple. He has subordinated background detail, emphasized his main groups, within blazing halos of sunshine 'through the ceiling' (back lighting.) For one thing he has made the light appear to enter the rooms from the windows, as it should. And he has had the courage to insist on uttermost simplicity, a true stroke of genius. Read More »

Dorothy Gish
Jay Parrino Collection
Kenneth Alexander - 1905-1940 - NY and Hollywood

Kenneth Alexander's career divided into three phases. His early home portrait work, from 1905 to 1917 was inspired by the most pictorial of home photographers, H H. Pierce of Boston, and the deeply tone and intensely modeled portraiture of E. W. Histed. His performing arts portraiture, from 1917 to 1926, combined the artistry of posing of his earlier work with the expertise at deploying artificial light in studio sittings of Baron DeMeyer. This finesse was retained in his Hollywood portrait work. His handling of outdoor still photography was derived from witnessing the protocols established by Clarence S. Bull for his crew in M.G.M.'s camera department. Read More »

June Walker
Jay Parrino Collection
Apeda Studio
 - 1906-1990 - NY
The several photographers who contracted for work with Apeda over the years were conversant in every contemporary portrait styles, often imitating signal features of the name photographers of the day. If there was any discernible ability characteristic of the company's photography, it was the ability to portray the whole body of the subject. While whole body portraiture was normal in sports and dance photography, it grew infrequent in 1920s theatrical portraiture, whole body shots being associated with production stills. Apeda photographers bucked the trend, producing whole body non-production portraiture after it went out fashion in Manhattan. Read More »

Arthur Powell
Jay Parrino Collection
Frank C. Bangs - 1900-1928 - NY and Hollywood
With Burr Macintosh, Bangs was an actor turned photographer who brought a sense of psychological drama and narrative focus to his portraiture and stage photography. His portraits were among the first to look dramatic yet unposed, and so he was one of the pioneers of the modern style of pictorial portrayal. His portraits, often in large formats, are well composed and artificially lighted. He had a particular attraction to profile heads, often against dark backgrounds. His work was the model for much early Hollywood portraiture. He was one of the first if not first of the Broadway photographers to be sent to the West Coast in 1920. Read More »

Hope Hampton
Tom Majdrakoff Collection
M. I. Boris - 1923-1962 - NY
An adherent of Jungenstil, the proto-modernist aesthetic that reigned in Austria before the War, Boris developed a mode of portrait photography with sinuous profiles and backgrounds aswirl with quasi-abstract graphic patterning. He brought the style to New York in 1923. His pictures bear strong affinities with those of Orval Hixon, Homer K. Peyton, and William Mortensen in the aggressive manipulation of the negative and the concern with creating a synthetic image of great allure. His vintage prints of the 1920s are among the rarest and most visually arresting of the portraitists of the inter-war years. Read More »

Henry Travers
Jay Parrino Collection
Francis Bruguiere - 1900-1945 - NY
His earliest photographs bear the hallmarks of pictorialist style: the idealization of scenes by soft focus, manipulation of the negative to perfect the beauty of portraits, an interest in exotic portrayals of dancers, plein air nudes. Throughout the 1920s he photographs moved from pictorialist mystification to modernist abstraction. He was particularly interested in double exposure, montage, and, later in the decade, the production of abstract constructivist images made of geometric patterns of light.The final years of his life in London, Bruguiere, devoted to ceaseless experimentation in multiple exposure montage prints of persons and places, stylist modernist advertising imagery, abstract short films examining the play of light on cut paper forms, and solarized figure studies in the style of Man Ray. During World War II he turned aside from photography and resumed painting. He died shortly after the armistice. Read More »

The Great Ruby
Joseph Byron - 1888-1923 - NY
Production shots of theatrical productions using Flash photography. The most artistic of the early 'stage picture' photographers, Joseph Byron attempted to capture the dynamic of stage action from unusual angles at moments of acute emotional impact. Byron's studio was a diversified business, doing New York scenic shots, ship launchings & arrivals (often shot by son Percy Byron in later years), plein air event photographs, and portraiture. His stage scene shots are the most valued of his theatrical photographs. He favored a twelve inch Dallmeyer rectilinear lens and Howard glass plates for exterior shots. His theatrical work was conducted with a 11x14 camera equipped with a 14 inch Ross-Goerz lens and Wratton panchromatic plates. He used little magnesium powder in his flash. By the end of the 1890s he used a synchronized array of seven lamps held by assistants scattered around the front of the stage and in back of the scenery. Read More »

Mary Pickford
Jay Parrino Collection
Campbell Studios - 1903-1928 - NY
The New York Branch of Campbell Studios was one of the active celebrity portrait studios in the 1900s to early 1920s. It's forte was the half length portrait photo of stage or screen stars in fashionable modern dress. It regularly supplied photographs to THE THEATRE and to movie magazines. There may have been two or more staff photographers shooting clients, for the style of portraiture varies from static poses shot in natural light to fanciful fashion poses. Read More »

Margaret Livingston
Jay Parrino Collection
Irving Chidnoff  - 1925-1948 -  NY
Early in June 1931, Irving Chidnoff engaged in a widely published debate with John Held and Rolf Armstrong on the visual character of beauty in women. While Held and Armstrong championed the ideals of photogenic glamour as projected by Hollywood and embodied in the images of Greta Garbo and Evelyn Brent, Chidnoff demurred: 'An exquisite face and a perfect figure mean nothing at all to me, if the spark of personality is lacking.' He confessed that he sought in a sitter a soul more than an image-'the brain which shines through the eyes and the character that is revealed by the poise of the head.' Chidnoff's emphasis on the face and head in this declaration is mirrored in his photographic works. No one, not even Herbert Mitchell, exposed so many close-up portraits over the course of his lifetime. Even his fashion photography featured waist up apparel and hats. (The few full body representations in Chidnoff's oeuvre tend to be dancers.) His great success as a Society photographer derived from an ability to capture something in a sitter that he or she recognized as a truth. There was never much artistic manipulation of the negative. There was no expressionist experiment with shadow. There was little self-conscious stylization, and no modernist angles or abstraction. Instead, there was a human palpability to the portraits that made them seem something other than stars or big shots. After the Depression this plain style humanism seemed somehow an appropriately 'realistic' approach. Read More »

Laura Hope Crews
Shields Collection
Mary Dale Clarke - 1910-1936 -  NY
Clark claimed to capture the souls of sitters. This could apparently be done at some distance from the subject, for she avoided close-up 'face' portraits. Her theatrical portraiture featured actresses in modern dress and men in costume. She used diffusion lenses and like Arnold Genthe, whom she admired, thought beauty a kind of aura or envelope radiating from a person. Read More »

Helen Morgan
Jay Parrino Collection
James Hargis Connelly - 1916-1940 - Kansas City, Chicago
Despite learning the greater part of his art from an adventurous experimentalist in imagery, Orval Hixon, James Hargis Connelly cultivated a straight style of portraiture. A specialist in female headshots, usually presented with a focal point a little above the sitter's brow line, half length portraits and full figure likenesses were relatively rare in his oeuvre. A masterful retoucher, all of his heads are free of blemishes, well-disposed in the pictorial field, and lit to give a richly tone three-dimensional relief. Read More »

Barrymore Family
Curtis Bell Studio - 1900-1940 - NY
Curtis Bell wished to express refinement in portraiture. In his most frequently reprinted observation about photographic art, Bell opined that 'there is . . . a strength and refinement–an aristocratic air–strongly appealing to people of discrimination.' This is what he wanted to capture in silver. His vocabulary of poses was strongly influenced by classical statuary. His tonal range tended toward sobre mid-dark. When he handed the business of shooting sitters to his employees in the 1920s, the pictures lightened and grew more spontaneous in their arrangement. Read More »

Ruby Keeler
DeBarron Studio - 1925-1940 - NY
George DeBarron specialized in glamorous Showgirl portraits and theatrical scene photography. He was an expert at 'Drape Shots' in which girls wore drapes instead of clothes. He did a great amount of portfolio work for aspiring actresses and B level stars. He favored light backgrounds and managed to place images with newspapers regularly. Less daring than De Mirjian, less elegant than Alfred Cheney Johnston, more classy than burlesque specialist Strand Studio, Debarren embodied the norm of beauty portraiture in New York during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He would manipulate the negative to pretty up a picture, yet his taste for simplicity led him to eliminate details in pictures rather than add objects to supply visual interest. Read More »

Betty Blythe
Harris & Ewing - 1905-1955 -  Washington, D.C.
George W. Harris of Harris & Ewing became so associated with the ideals of professional society--the social function of portraiture, the aesthetic of formal portrait photography, the dynamism of photojournalistic reportage, that the Professional Photographers Society named his highest award, the Harris medal, after him. Images of generations of sober looking public servants lit with flattering, yet undramatic indirection, seated before dark backgrounds with the hint of a halation around the sitter adorn the halls of government, the visual memory of the governing class. With theatrical performers, Harris & Ewing could be more playful, letting the formal aura be used for effect to make the daring display of flesh more shocking. Read More »

Bessie McCoy
Shields Collection
Charlotte Fairchild - 1915-1927 - NY
Charlotte Fairchild did theatrical production photography, usually of experimental theater, studio portraiture in which a stunningly dressed solitary individual stood or lounged about Fairchild's sumptuously furnished work space, and plein air dance photography of young, chitton-dressed women in groups in parks. Her outdoor photography had a pictorialist poetry to it, her studio work a clarity of focus and elegance of arrangement that was distinctive, and her production photography a straightforwardness that permitted the ideas of the designer or choreographer to be conveyed unambiguously. Her images translated well to the print medium. Read More »

Julia Marlowe
Benjamin J. Falk - 1877-1915 - NY
The first strong adherent of artificial light sources in the studio, Benjamin Falk created portraits that were among the most dramatically sculptural looking images of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Possessed of a playful visual wit, he often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. Increasingly indifferent to painted backdrops, he did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900. Read More »

Elsie Ferguson
Jay Parrino Collection
Frank E. Geisler - 1913-1928 - NY, Palm Beach
A skilled and restless artist, Frank Geisler, tried his hand at several genres of photography during his career: theatrical portraitst, ethnographic recorder, golf photographer, and architectural photographer. In New York, he became for a decade the chief rival of Ira L. Hill. He was a talented portraitist and an imaginative early fashion photographer (he shines particularly in the contributions to the fashion section of THE THEATRE), but could never maintain his business. His photographs of members of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1919-1921 are particularly exciting,--brightly illuminated and dramatically posed--an alternative vision to the richly tone visions of A. C. Johnston. Read More »

Ignaz Padarewski
Arnold Genthe - 1911-1940 - San Francisco, NY
Arnold Genthe won international fame as a pictorialist who in his portraiture captured the unposed moment of personal expression. He pioneered spontaneous shooting in studio situations. A camera artist of broad range, he won notice for his hidden camera portraits of San Francisco's China Town before the 1906 Earthquake. He supported himself as a studio portraitist while on the West Coast and became the premier photographer of the city's elite. At various points in his career, he would make a prolonged visit to a locale and attempt to capture visually the genius of a place. He portrayed Japan, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Greece in this manner. Yet these pictorial vacations did not support him. He organized his business so that half of his revenue came from portrait sittings, the other half from magazine and book illustration. He sunk much of his money into the purchase of oriental antiquities. His dance photography remained pictorial in its envelope of shadow, mist, and mystery, but were shot with the highest speed shutters and films available to capture the instant of gesture. He preferred to shoot dancers improvising works rather than performing choreography. Absolutely convinced of the aesthetic rightness of his work, he would prohibit cropping and editorial intervention in the publication of his images. His theatrical portraiture swathed sitters in mystique, sometimes at the expense of accurate depiction of features. He preferred not to portray moments of passionate expression, rather contemplative poses by solitary figures. Read More »

Hedda Hopper
Victor Georg - 1915-1930 - NY
A portraitist trained as a fine artist while being exposed at home to the whole range of professional photography, Victor Georg possessed great versatility in his art. His broad familiarity with genres and technical questions made him an important figure in the history of mass printed imagery. He was responsible in the mid 1920s for increasing the reproduction fidelity and aesthetic quality of photographs published in the NEW YORK TIMES. In 1924, he commented upon aspects of his photographic technique to an intervewer. Preparing the sitter: 'I don't manipulate the camera at all until everything else is done. I leave my subject alone in the studio for a few minutes, to let them get accustomed to their surroundings. Then I talked with them, let them forget that they've come just to have pictures made. During this conversation I am quietly studying them, and deciding for myself the type of a portrait I will make of them.' On lighting: 'Much can be done with lights; a face can be remodeled with them, in fact. A receding chin can be bilt up if a face is properly lighted. A nose that is not well modeled can be changed. A stout woman can be made thin.' About retouching: 'It really is a necessity. The very strong lights under which we work, the powerful lens and the extremely sensitive films that are used today produce a negative and print that reveal more than the naked eye sees. Retouching merely brings the photograph to normal.' Concerning make-up: 'Powder can do something toward covering defects of the skin but powder absorbs the light and produces 'flatness', and therefore I do not believe in the use of make-up.' Read More »

Harriet Hoctor
Shields Collection
Maurice Goldberg - 1913-1949 - NY
The greatest dance photographer of the 1920s and 30s, a talented portraitist, a chronicler of persons in the performing arts. Maurice Goldberg liked to show dancers and musicians engaged in performance, yet preferred to show actors and actresses relaxing. Even using large format photographic plates and slow film Goldberg could communicate motion better than Arnold Genthe, who obscured action in shadow, and Nickolas Muray, who liked to pose dancers in stances of arrested torsion in his studio. Goldberg depicted dancers doing the choreography of the works they performed in public. He preferred prints in smaller formats. In the 1920s had a penchant for soft-focus images, but the imagery sharpened in the 1930s. In 1920s sometimes did glamour photography, nudes, and was one of the strongest promoters of the late 1910s early '20s fad of plein air dancing photography. At the end of his career did two years of still photography for movie studios. Read More »

Betty Compton
Nicholas Haz - 1924-1950 - NY
While he photographed a vast range of subjects, his invariable concern in photography was composition. He was interested in depth of field, asymmetry, and visual echo effects. He tended toward straight photography, thinking the art of the camera was largely a work of setting the frame for the picture. His prints are not overly worked, and he was a minimal retoucher. Read More »

Hope Hampton
Edwin Bower Hesser - 1913-1947 - NY
A versatile artist whose plain air nudes of Showgirls in natural light became the academic standard for art photographers in the 1920s and whose portraits of movie actresses and stage stars were greatly influential images of glamour from 1925 to 1930. He was one of the few portraitist who regularly depicted sitters head on. His penchant for back-lighting so that hair seem lined with light, gave certain of his 1920s sitters a halo or aura. Expert at landscape photography, he often shot nudes in parks and glades. Possessed of an inquiring and entrepreneurial mind, he developed and patented a color process, "Hessecolor," that intrigued mass circulation publishers during the 1930s, but did not prevail in the marketplace. Read More »

Madge Kennedy
Jay Parrino Collection
Ira L. Hill - 1907-1947 - NY
His early success had to do with the rustic painted backdrops employed in his studio shots. Using soft focus, he made a sitter appear as though lounging in a Gainsborough glade. Theater producers were attracted to the aesthetic aura of his portraits and in 1913 began sending actresses for publicity shots to his studio, then located at 463 6th Avenue. After 1915, the influence of Baron De Meyer, caused Hill to design the ensemble of his shots with more exquisite taste and with fashionable dress and furnishings. He rarely shot performers in character, and devoted himself increasingly to fashion work and society portraiture in the 1920s. Read More »

Velaska Suratt
Orval Hixon - 1914-1930 - Kansas City
Hixon was the premier autodidact photographer of the midwest arts & crafts movement. A pictorialist in the sense that he considered the photographic print an art object worthy of fetishistic elaboration, he nevertheless was drawn to artifice rather than nature. He was a portraitist, working at times in conjuction with James Hargis Connelly, the Chicago photographer, interested in evoking the magic of theatrical craft in the studio. His manipulations of negatives are often extensive, sometimes creating strange arabesques of light, or reticulations of shadow in the backgrounds for graphic interest. He had a penchant for dark and half shaded prints. While he published in national magazines frequently in the 1920s, he reproduced images lack the impact of the original prints which are among the strangest and most compelling of the period.
Because his subjects tended to be vaudevillians touring one of the three circuits that conjoined in Kansas City, his portraits partook of the extremity of gesture and expression characteristic of the extraordinarily competitive world of vaudeville. When glamour portraiture was tending to stillness and coolness of expression, Hixon explored the most extravagant practitioners of personal notice-grabbing. Read More »

Helen Hagan
Shields Collection
Eugene Hutchinson - 1905-1929 - Chicago
At first a pictorialist in style, Hutchinson evolved over the course of the 1910s into performing arts photographer with an experimental approach to lighting and print formatting. He excelled at full figure images of persons in motion. In the 1920s he became increasingly interested in pictorial patterning. In 1929 he suspended his society portraiture and became a midwestern chronicler of the machine aesthetic, with hard edge photos of factories and engines. Read More »

Ada May
Alfred Cheney Johnston - 1917-1939 - NY
Johnston, while renowned for his glamour portraits of Ziegfeld girls and actresses, was a versatile artist adept at visualizing advertising imagery, urban landscapes, color still lifes, and production shots. Johnston was one of the creators of 20th-century glamour photography, giving his sitters erotic allure while vesting them with dignity and power. While his celebrity portraiture predominantly pictured women, his commercial imagery, particularly his famous campaign for Dobbs Hats projected masculine elegance. He was known in NY photographic circles for his color still lifes as well, though these never appeared in magazines. His nude photography redefined the genre, creating a refimed visual erotics differing from the vulgar French postcard and the misty nude dancers of pictorial photography. His late book, ENCHANTING BEAUTY, marked a departure from his early work, manifesting the surrealism and visual wit of Manasee studio in Vienna, and presenting visual homages to the nude styles of E. B. Hesser and Nickolas Muray. Johnston's approach to his photographic work was painterly. Indeed, in a significant number of his portrait and erotic images he painted backgrounds directly on the negative. What appears to be as painted backdrop or patterned wall is a semi-abstract impression hand rendered on the glass or film. (See the picture of Ada May Weeks above.) Johnston rarely discussed his photographic methods in print, and aside from professional talks on color processes, his public pronouncements about his photography tended to be recollections of shooting Ziegfeld showgirls and motion picture stars. Yet in one revealing interview with Violet Dare published in 1928, he spoke candidly about many of the dimensions of his art. 'I just work in my own way . . . I don't imitate the methods of anyone else. And I break all the laws of photography whenever I see fit--not that I can see their value anyway! Why insist on having a shadow here and a high light there, simply because books have been written saying that you must? I suit everything to the personality of the person whose picture I'm making. Lights, background, composition-everything! I like to have a little talk with the person I'm going to photograph, before we get to work, two or three days before perhaps. We sit down here and talk things over, and I find out what kind of pictures are desired, and all that sort of thing. You see, a girl who wants to go into pictures or get on the stage, or who is already famous, perhaps, but needs new photographs, must have several kinds. She needs straight heads, full length pictures, some beautifully draped, some taken in decorative costumes. Her pictures must appeal to the editors of magazines and newspapers, as well as to theatrical producers. They are a large part of her stock in trade. I talk over her good points with her, suggest costumes, perhaps, though I always try to leave as much as possible to the girl herself. I don't believe a photographer should try to do the whole thing in his ow way. If he does, he's going to get the same sort of pictures of everybody! Then, when I actually take the pictures, as I've said before, I suit everything to the sitter's personality. There's a great deal in having the right sort of lighting, of course. The background means a great deal. Take a picture of a draped figure, for instance. It may be rather coarse, unattractive, if it is done in the wrong way. But if the drapery is beautifully arranged, if the whole thing is made to look natural and simple, and the background which I paint into the negative harmonizes, the result is going to be beautiful. . . . I try to make not just a photograph of a girl's face and figure, but one of her personality as well, because when you look at a person your eye isn't photographic. You don't see just the features. In fact, you probably couldn't describe your best friend's face absolutely accurately, could you? You'd remember characteristics, interesting attributes, that would temper that memory. That's why photographs so often are disappointing--they show just what the eye sees. But-take a photograph that has a definite atmosphere, that brings out a girl's elfin loveliness, her daintiness, her quiet, sweet charm, her spirit of gay camaraderie, and you've got a photograph that is going to mean something to her and her friends.' [Violet Dare comments on the beauty of the backgrounds and asks about them.] 'I paint them in . . . . You see I studied art for ten years before I even thought of making photographs. I can't get away from it, of course. Now, the composition of a picture means a great deal. Take this, for instance ('this' being a picture of a pretty girl in a bit of black chiffon and lace, a charming piquant thing,) Look at just the figure, without anything else; not so very nice, is it? But-with the drapery on the wall here, and this spray of leaves down the other side, the whole thing becomes more like a painting. . . . Take a woman in everyday life, a very beautifully gowned woman, say a dowager on her way to a wedding. Let her stand in the middle of a crowded elevator in a cheap department story. Instantly she is out of place, the effect of her manner, her gown, her breeding, is likely to be discounted, isn't it? She's in the wrong environment. Well, in my photographs I try to create the proper environment, just as we try to create it for ourselves in real life.' Read More »

Mary Garden
Shields Collection
Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. - 1895-1916 - NY
When pictorialism went foggy in the last years of the 19th century, Eickemeyer was held up as the artistic alternative to the Salon style. To emphasize the different his exhibition prints became increasing narrative in implication, resolutely representational, and sometimes moral in point. The sentimental ethnography of his images of rural life in 1901’s picture book, THE OLD FARM and black sharecropper families in his 1902 book, DOWN SOUTH would seem increasingly old fashioned with every passing year of the 20th century. Yet Eickemeyer had his fascinations with the pleasure of the simply visual. His book devoted to representing Winter had the sort of clear focus sharpness that anticipated the Ansel Adams aesthetic. Furthermore, his theater and movie star portraits for Campbell contributed as much as Adolph De Meyer’s in creating the emerging grammar of glamour photography. Eickemeyer’s portrait style influence Frank Geisler and Alfred Cheney Johnston particularly. Read More »

Irving Berlin
Jay Parrino Collection
G. Maillard Kesslere - 1921-1952 - NY
Kesslere devoted his photographic art to theatrical portraiture and fashion. Trained as a painter, he pursued a parallel career as a fine artist, excelling in pastels. From the first he exemplified the painterly, anti-Hollywood approach of the Kansas City photographers and the New York negative scrapers. He renovated and modernized the late 19th-style of vignette photography in which a portrait bust would float disembodied in pictorial space coalescing out of a drawn rendering of the sitter. The success of these mixed media portraits led others, for instance Hal Phyfe, John De Mirjian, even Irving Chidnoff to experiment with the style, leading to a moment in 1926-27 when a distinct New York style of art portraiture prevailed Even in the later 1930s, when a straight style of depiction became standard, Kesslere's images were so heavily retouched that they seemed graphic rather than photographic. He signed his portraits: G. Maillard Kesslere, B.P. Read More »

Pavlova & Novikoff
Library of Congress
Carlo Leonetti - 1918-1950 - NY
Because of his background in dance, Leonetti's sense of pose reflected a whole body sensibility. Full figure shots appear frequently in his oeuvre. His bust shots tend to be posed dynamically as well, and invariably encompass at least 1/4 of the body. He shot unadorned almost abstract nudes, often posed with a mannerist breadth of gesture. His portraits have a purity and lack of complication that is refreshing. His 1930s portraits often attempted a two-dimensional, graphic quality by reducing shadows to a minimum. He sought to depict the humanity of persons, and was among the most sympathetic of theatrical portraitists. Read More »

Verree Teasdale
George W. Lucas - 1905-1942 - NY
Devised the flare method of photographic illumination. Did production stills of stage action taken usually dead center from the 10th row of the orchestra after the dress rehearsal Lucas photographed the best of the White Studio stage portraits. His earliest work 1905-1910 sometimes suffers from a rather schematic arrangement caused by slow shutter speeds. By the 1910s, faster exposures enable a looser, more spontaneous looking stage picture. He also took to putting the camera on stage and shooting close up dramatic scenes, particularly in drawing room dramas. When leading his own studio from 1936-1942, he availed himself of hand-held cameras with high speed film and rapid shutters, so the pictures reflect the dynamism of stage action. He did not do portrait work. Read More »

Corinne Griffith
Samuel Lumiere - 1910-1930 - NY
Lumiere Studio was exclusively concerned with portraiture. It did society work, theatrical photography, and film publicity in the later 1910s for New York studios. He rarely produced prints in larger formats, but was a master of the 8x10 "fancy shot." He used soft focus lenses on female sitters and was a master retoucher who could make an image blemish-free and other-worldly in its surface beauty. Lumiere had an improvisational streak and would occasionally do humorous photo suites with Showgirls from the revues. His signature often had a copyright sign with rays; this iconic sun punned his name. Read More »

Clara Lyde
Theodore C. Marceau - 1890-1922 - NY, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, San Fran, Boston
Col. Marceau ran diversified photographic studios that did portraiture, scientific photography, and occasional photojournalism. Upon Marceau's marriage to Amanda Fiske in 1891, he became greatly interested in theatrical portraiture. Made extensive use of props, drapes, and painted backdrops in his portraits. Well connected to the political establishment, Marceau also specialized in official portraiture, travel images, and advertising photography. His various branches were run as local service photography shops, doing home photography, Society shots, and official function images. Read More »

Laurette Taylor
Matzene Studio - 1900-1937 - Chicago, NY, Los Angeles
Count Matzene specialized in artistic portraiture, particularly of women. Because pose was centrally significant in his eyes as a vehicle of personality, he favor images in which the whole body or substantial portions were visible. He devalued ornate scenery and emphasized the quality of the sitters' clothing. Read More »

Margaret Anglin
Burr McIntosh - 1895-1910 - NY
The first theatrical portraitist to manifest the modernist sensibility, actor-photographer Burr McIntosh showed performers in naturalistic poses off stage, without the aura of a studio, or engaged in their art on stage, portrayed from the viewpoint of a fellow player, attentive to the point of the moment's action. He may have been the inventor of the close-up. His non-theatrical photography was photojournalistic, driven by a aesthetic that dramatized the distinctiveness of events rather than the representativeness of typical persons and activities. Alone of the important portrait photographers of the first decade of the 20th century, he was indifferent to the print as an art object, conceiving instead of the image as a reproducible entity. Confronting the difficulties of making legible photographs in a mass printed medium, he became sensitive to the sorts of lighting and pictorial arrangement that would communicate best on the magazine page. Read More »

Marylin Miller
Baron Adolph De Meyer - 1913-1922 - NY
In the 1890s De Meyer absorbed the pictorialist aesthetics of the international art photography movement, exhibited portraits, and was invited to join the international association of art photographers, 'The Linked Ring.' Gravures of his photography appeared in CAMERA WORK. His encounter with the Ballet Russe, with its exoticism, integral conception of aesthetic effect, and its experimentalism jolted De Meyer from his prettiness. His portraits of dancer Vaslav Nijinsky began to explore the beautiful in terms of the uncanny, rather than the indistinct, the usual mode of pictorialist abstraction. At VOGUE and VANITY FAIR De Meyer seized the opportunity given him, filling the pages with images remarkable for their design, lighting (he was the first to under-spot faces in conjunction with backlighting), and detail. The photographs dramatized poise, and were remarkable for their stillness and composure. De Meyer concurrently undertook careers in the fields of clothing design and interior decoration, so that certain of his pictures were suites in which his creative intelligence was reflected in every feature. One element of his photographic arts was the projection of domestic interiors as utopias of taste. Often furniture has as much artistic meaning in a De Meyer scene as a sitter. Read More »

Gina Malo
John De Mirjian - 1922-1928 - NY
Glamour photography & Theatrical portraiture. For such a temperamental figure, De Mirjian's visual style is strikingly free of shadow. He based his vocabulary of poses on that of Alfred Cheney Johnston and like Johnston specialized in the portraiture of women. De Mirjian's showgirl pictures are flooded with light. His portraits, male and female, dramatize personality. He liked extravagant dress and sitters with a daring spirit, so his photographs are among the most striking visually of the 1920s. He did occasional production photography, usually of the revues. His more risque imagery--showgirl nudes and draped model photos--were staples of the underground sex magazines of the period. Next to Hollywood photographer E. B. Hesser, he was the most widely published celebrant of celebrity flesh of the jazz age. Read More »

Elsie Ferguson
Jay Parrino Collection
Herman Mishkin - 1890-1932 - NY
Herman Mishkin was the foremost portrayer of Golden Era opera singers. In certain respects, he had the most difficult task of any theatrical photographer of the early 20th century, for he was constantly having to temper the hyperbolically dramatic poses that opera singers employed on the vast stages of Europe and America so that they didn't appear ludicrous shot from twelve feet's distance. His subjects were among the least tractable persons to instruction in the performing arts, and were generally infected with decorative sensibilities. That Mishkin was able to satisfy his sitters and adjust to the increasingly less ornamental aesthetic of modern photography was a testament to his tact and flexibility. He began shooting CDVs and Cabinet portraits of performers in costume in the 1890s and closed his career in the 1930s by shooting singers in modern dress in contemporary settings. While shooting opera stars for the Met, he maintained a portrait studio frequented by most of the significant performing artists of the day. His portraits of actors and actresses display a refinement and composure sometimes lacking in the histrionic costumed opera images. Read More »

Ann Penington
Jay Parrino Collection
Herbert Mitchell - 1928-1940 - NY
Master of floating heads and the waist-up portrait shot with sitters posed at an angle 25-50 degrees off center. By frequently employing light toned patterned or plain backgrounds, he endeared himself to periodical photo editors for whom the dark backgrounds favored by art photographs presented reproduction difficulties. He never used props. He preferred shooting personalities in their own clothes rather than costumes. He had a talent for suggesting that the sitter was absorbed in thought or amused at his or her surroundings. He signed his best pieces in white ink. In the 1930s he offered the following observations about facial features and their contribution to attractiveness. 'A large mouth is more alluring than a perfectly-shaped small one for it denotes a gay, magnanimous character. Eyes are most important. Large, soulful ones or narrow, deep-set eyes each have a very definite attraction . . . . you cannot make up a certain set of rules. Little irregularities make a face more interesting.' Read More »

Olga Petrova
Jay Parrino Collection
Moffett Studio - 1905-present -  Chicago
George Moffett and his colleague George O. Hinchliffe shared a penchant for shooting whole figure or half-length portraits done in relatively sharp focus, often in elaborate studio settings. When he produced head shots for theatrical publicity, they were often strong profiles. Images he produced personally were signed in bold red characters. Photographs were signed in the negative with a copyright symbol and MOFFETT STUDIO in sans serif unicals. Read More »

Janet McGrew
Edward Thayer Monroe - 1913-1950 - NY
Monroe's years of uncredited work as a portraitist at the busiest studio in New York City from 1914 to 1919 instilled in him a mastery of natural lighting and photographic printing. Because White Studios' production photographs, shot by George W. Lucas, highlighted the glitzy spectacle of the stage, Monroe, when shooting performers out of character cultivated an almost austere naturalness of pose and setting. He was a neoclassicist in sensibility, avoiding dramatic contrasts in tone in his prints by avoiding spot lighting and heavy dodging of the prints. He used an 8x10 camera with a 12 inch lens. He experimented with textured papers for his prints and his finest work shows exquisite finish. The typical Monroe portrait shows a sitter at rest, composed and self-possessed, whether sitting or standing. In the middle 1920s he shot nudes of showgirls that have the stillness and poise of Greek statuary. He avoided reclining postures. His portraits for White occasionally employed soft focus. Those appearing under his own name tend to be straight, well-lit, with moderate depth of field. Read More »

Venie Clancy
Jose Maria Mora - 1868-1895 - NY
Mora was the most tactful and poetic of the late 19th-century theatrical and celebrity photographers in New York City. He muted the extravagance of backgrounds, avoided operatic gesture, and showed particular care in the draping of clothes upon seated sitters. Photographing by natural light, he used diffusion screens and baffles to give his shadows softness and staunch glare. He paid less attention than Sarony or Falk to the manipulation of the negative. Read More »

Violet Hemming
Nickolas Muray - 1920-1960 - NY
Nickolas Muray supplied a succinct description of his methods and aesthetic aims in James Wallace Gillies PRINCIPLES OF PICTORIAL PHOTOGRAPHY-1923. 'I believe in the use of the soft focus lens, quick exposure, and a sdensible use of the retouching pencil . . . . I favor the soft focus lens because personally I am well satisfied in obtaining a pleasing, general effect as opposed to representing a subject in all its minutest detail. I am not arguing against showing detail or, for example, the necessary lines in a face which denote character, but I am not concerned with the number or distinctness of the pores in a sitter's face. I want my impression of people as seen through my own eyes at a reasonable distance and not through a magnifying glass. Nor do I desire to sem them through a haze. Therefore, I don't strive for fuzziness or dimness in a picture. The soft focus lens: yes, but used intelligently. A face clear and characterful and neither befogged or 'hair-line' sharp is the effect I try to achieve. For expediency I prefer the soft focus lens for its depth of field. I want the ear of my sitter to be as well defined as the tip of his nose, the hand on his knee as clear as his shoulder. I adocate the short-time exposure. My idea of a well equipped studio is one where I can get a great amount of light properly placed and controlled cutting my exposure down to a minimum. It is contended that with a comparatively quick exposure the same results are not obtainable as with a longer exposure; as for example, the character in the face of a sitter will lose in value in the former case. Scan, if you please, some of the pictures of the days of the head-rest and clamps and note the character depicted on the faces. If tenseness and a set express exemplifying character then I admit I am at fault. With a short exposure a fleeting glance, a twinkle of the eye, or a momentary mood is caught and this tells us more of a sitter than ten or twenty seconds of concentrated staring and tense muscles . . . . I am also in favor of the intelligent use of the retouching pencil. No matter how sincere we may be in our art we still have to be photographically true to the sitter. If, by any chance, our subject has a well-rounded face with red cheeks, an unretouched negative would show these spots of red as hollow. If our plates lie to us we are duty bound to our sitter to rectify the error. The sitter isn't at all interested in the fact that red photographs black, and a few strokes of the retouching pencil will transform the sunken cheeks to their natural roundness. Besides, the average lens is unfriendly and unnecessarily severe in reproducing the human face. Ordinary blemishes are accentuated to a point beyond truth. [pages 42-44] Read More »

Toby Wing
Shields Collection
Mortimer Offner - 1925-1934 - NY, Hollywood
Portraits. A straight photographer who preferred to use natural light. Many of the portraits show the sitter in eye contact with the viewer. A tactful retoucher, he was one of the few photographers willing to show middle aged leading men and women with wrinkles in the 1930s. He preferred smaller format images and blind stamped the best of these with his name and NY in a circle on the lower right corner. Read More »

Grace Brinkley
Ralph Oggiano - 1930-1955 - NY
A master of color process printing and the first to use it extensively in portraiture on Broadway. He specialized in waist-up portraits and bust format shots. He favored lighting which gave a gradient of shade in the background. Read More »

Olga Petrova
Pach Brothers Studio - 1867-1980s - NY
Diversified photographic service with emphasis on portraiture of the professional classes. Because of the Studios initial backing by Gen. U. S. Grant, it became the official studio of West Point. Generations of U. S. Army officers had their promotion pictures taken by Gustavus or Gotthelf Pach. In the final decades of the 19th century, the firm developed a national reputation for college portraiture. It opened branches in the Ivy League towns. Gustavus Pach invented dry plate methods of printing and the 'flashlight' method of illuminating scenes, using magnesium powder, alcohol, & a blow torch. It would be the prevalent method of lighting theatrical production shots until the 1905. Theatrical photography was a subsidiary element of a wider practice of photography, with portraiture prevailing over production shots. During the 1910s and 1920s under second generation director Alfred Pach, the studio excelled in large format images of performers in contemporary clothing. Read More »

Rudee Valee

Hal Phyfe - 1926-1955 - NY
As adept at portraying men as women, Phyfe produced some of the most dynamic male portraits of the late 1920s. He preferred not to portray performers in costume. A master of middle grays, his exhibition and portfolio prints of the late 1920s display exquisitely refined shading. During the late 1920s he indulged in the penchant among NY portraitist to vignette heads. There would be strong graphic intervention at the perimeters of the image, suggesting a drawing. In the 1930s he opted for a straighter style of portraiture, full body, often with the subject seated. His Society portraits of the 1930s are well posed and understated, suggesting refinement rather than ostentation. His popularity among Hollywood performers derives from his disinclination to overstate elegance. He signed original prints in red crayon in distinctive squared letters. His Hollywood portraits are signed on the negative in white. Periodically Phyfe published advice about how women should prepare for a photo shoot. '1. A clean face, with a dusting of fine rachel powder. 2. No foundation cream of grease beneath the powder. 3. A light lipstick--red photographs black--but an indelible one. Shape the lips in their usual lines, rub in the lip rouge, press the lips against a facial tissue to remove every speck of excessive rouge. 4. Very little mascara, and what you use concentrated on the tips of the lashes to accent their length. Artificial eyelashes are fine if they are the kind which are applied at the end of each natural lash, and not the fringe strip type which drap the eyelids down out of shape. 5. Natural eyebrows-of course yours are habitually disciplined to a clean, well grooomed line, camera sitting or no! --unless you are a very pale blonde, when a teeny bit of mascara may be used. The lens, however, will catch considerable accent from even blonde eyebrows. 6. No greasy highlights. Let the photographer add them if he wishes, about the eyelids. 7. A little dry eye shadow discreetly applied. 8. Choose a natural, simple and familiar hairdo, certainly one which will not date you. Your dress should be a pastel shade with a neckline which does not chop your head from your body, and it better not be of print fabric. The effect may detract from your face, confuse the issue. Too, print designs tend to date you, as do hats and strange hairdos.' (January 1940) 'Facial construction must be definite, even bold. And the eyes must be the pivot of the expression. For if the eyes have "It" everything else will be forgotten in their vivid, compelling attraction. Eyes create individuality, they are the spokesman for the soul, the character, the mind. For the rest-complexion, hair, features-for he knows that art and the will to achieve a certain amount of beauty can, and does do wonders.' Read More »

Henry Hull
Ben Pinchot - 1927-1945 - NY
Ben Pinchot possessed a dramatic sense of lighting, frequently positioning spots (stark or diffused) above a sitter. He had a painterly sense of print tone and a quirky taste for capturing performers at their most extreme. His initial impression was made with extraverts behaving extravagently. But in the late 1930s, when he became enamored of photographing writers, he developed a knack for communicating the character of introverts. Pinchot shot portraits, theater production shots, prop photography, and occasional experimental prints that he bestowed on artist friends. His nudes were among the best of the 1930s. Prior to 1934, because money was often scarce, Pinchot would undertake assignments of any sort for periodicals, including architectural photography and events. After 1934, when he 'arrived,' he concentrated on character studies of dancers, actors, and operatic singers, nudes, artistic experiments, and scene shots of plays and operas that interested him. Read More »

Winifred Lenihan
Ben M. Rabinovitch - 1905-1940 - NY
Signing his work by his last name--'Rabinovitch'--this portraitist and still life photographer became a force in New York artist circles as a pedagogue and photographic taste-maker. In his earliest work, pre 1927, Rabinovitch cultivated a pictorialist density and richness of texture, yet he possessed an aesthetic clarity of line and an instinct for the integral disposition of various pictorial elements. Rabinovitch was particularly adamant in his determination not to retouch 'anything above the shoulders' in a portrait at a time when wrinkle erasers and 'eye doctors' dominated the dark rooms; yet he would manipulate everything in other portion of the pictorial field for expressive purposes. He did theatrical work, but his interest in human appearance was broad and he would approach interesting looking people on the street in order to portray them. In the later 1920s, he became increasingly interested in objective modernism and the sharp edge/clear focus aesthetic emerging in art photography. Yet this clarity was added to what was primarily an experimental outlook to the medium. Like Man Ray, he would solarize, or abstract pictorial elements. His still lifes from the 1930s have a spare monumental simplicity admired by lovers of modernist abstraction. Read More »

Mrs Fiske
Library Of Congress
Hamilton Revelle - 1895-1921 - NY
An accomplished watercolorist, a capable pictorialist landscape photographer, Hamilton Revelle's great talent lay in the photographic distillation of character. Using a hand-sized camera with a state of the art lens, he could capture the sponteneity of back stage expression with greater swiftness and tact than any production photographer. Tirelessly experimental, with a penchant for making finished prints unqiue and gorgeous, he was the last photographic aesthete who had a reputation as a camera artist on Broadway. A resident of hotels during his stateside sojourns, Revelle lived in england, and later Monaco. Read More »

Ina Claire
Davis & Sanford - 1892-1915 - NY
Sidney Allen in a 1906 appreciation of the portraiture of Charles H. Davis listed the ideals that informed the approach of Davis & Sanford: "Likeness, facial expression, naturalness of pose, grace of line, skilful lighting, and above all else, artistic handling." From the first the artistry of Davis & Sanford images were remarked by critics and the public. At a time when nebulousness of focus and dark tonalities were being championed by photographic pictorialists, Davis created images that appeared with clear definition, that did not betray the extensive manipulation of the negative, that exploited the exquisite gradation of tone, particularly silvers and grays, available with platinum media, and displayed a painterly sense of linear arrangement. Because pictorialist portraiture tended to obscure outline (think of certain of Arnold Genthe's prints), the linear elegance of sitters and scenes is sacrificed in the name of impression. Davis opted for elegance and so established the studio as the byword of artistic portraiture in New York in the 1890s. Sidney Allen, "The Ideal Average-Charles H. Davis," Wilson's Photographic Magazine 43 (1906), pp. 7-9. Read More »

Olive Thomas
Sarony Studio - 1866-1930 - NY
Sarony developed the genre of the artfully posed celebrity portraits that he inherited from Brady and Gurney. Napoleon Sarony was the first to specialize in stage portraiture. Periodically he indulged in allegorical photographs, and hybrid graphic works that mixed drawing and the depicted image. His forte was making a sitter seem relaxed despite being clamped into a head or torso brace. He would stand by, arrange, and chat with the sitter while the cameraman (B. J. Richardson) would open the shutter. He loved surrounding sitters with props and emblems of elegance. An ornate swag curtain often appeared as a backdrop, and became a photographic cliche in the 19th century it was so widely emulated. The 20th-century portraiture, bearing the posthumous name of Otto Sarony, accorded to the modern ideal of visual glamour, with few props, flattering lighting, and a diplomatic erasure of blemishes and vagrant hair. Read More »

Florence Hedges
Jay Parrino Collection
Ira D. Schwarz - 1910-1940 - NY
Began as a pictorialist art photographer, showing prints in the 1912 meeting of the American Photographer’s Association in NY. Fascinated with shade and known for the plummy blacks in his prints. Broke into the magazine market in 1924. Attempted to compete with Tommy Vandamm as a production photographer of the stage and enjoyed some success in the 1930s shooting a number of serious, psycholgoical dramas. Did portrait work as well. Was considered a photographic psychologist by his colleagues, intent on capturing the mentality of his sitter. Read More »

Lenore Ulric
Edward Steichen - 1923-1936 - NY
Steichen's theatrical and celebrity portraiture departed from his earlier pictorialist style in its clear focus, its employment of artificial light, and its concern for a figure in an artificially arranged environment. Steichen's usual sensitivity to the disposition of objects in a pictorial field remained constant, but his willingness to arrange those objects increased substantially. This imposition of will on the visual environment was the psychological precondition for Steichen's commercial work which he commenced shortly after 1923. Read More »

Maria Bazzi
Marcia Stein - 1895-1930 - NY
Stein's style evolved from an unornamented rather candid style of portraiture to a moody, uncanny modernist style, defiantly inattentive to glamour poses and alluring lighting. She had a penchant for frontal full face and figure shots, with faces showing expression and blank or semi-abstract backgrounds. Read More »

Beatrice Lillie
Strauss-Peyton - 1903-1929 - Kansas City
In the 1910s, Benjamin Strauss specialized in formal portraits of Kansas City notables. After he added Homer Peyton as partner, the business expanded to theatrical photography. Peyton was the graphic artist, performing pictorialist manipulations of the negative to form aesthetic backgrounds, sculpt shadows, and supply tonal drama. Strauss-Peyton's large format prints are noteworthy for their richness of texture. Because of Kansas City's importance as a transportation hub, it was the juncture of three different theatrical circuits. Strauss-Peyton, like their rivals, Orval Hixon and James Hargis Connelly, secured a national reputation as celebrity portraitists. Images regularly appeared in 1920s Movie and Theater magazines. Read More »

J.S. Blackton
Jay Parrino Collection
Jean de Strelecki - 1915-1935 - Rhode Island, NY, Pasadena
De Strelecki favored portraiture over every other genre of photography, though he would do outdoor event photography if the remuneration was sufficiently great. He favored richly toned, deeply shaded photographs and often depicted his subjects standing, shot from a slightly declined angle to give them stature. At times in the 1920s he used a soft focus lens. His theatrical photography featured performers in moments of action or emotion. His Society portraiture, in contrast, often depicted persons in self-possessed repose. Read More »

Miriam Battista
Edwin F. Townsend - 1921-1957 - NY
Townsend practiced three genres of photography: portraiture, phyique photography, and dance production images. The dance photography was dynamic, the physique photography, static and stately, and portraiture, varied, suiting the sitters' wishes. Signing his finished portraits in red pen, Townsend made a distinction between presentation prints and mass circulation images. While he placed images with the NEW YORK TIMES, VANITY FAIR, and other of the large circulation periodics of the 1920s and '30s, his greatest fascination was with the unique print. Read More »

Nina Foch
Underwood & Underwood - 1888-1930s - Multiple Offices
Diversified agency that came to power popularizing the steroegraph and by doing pioneering work in photojournalism. In the 1910s expanded its coverage of the world of entertainment with an emphasis on celebrity portraiture. Made an early specialty of candid shots of stage stars, usually seen at home. Bert Underwood did the earliest important formal portrait studies of stage personalities. Several uncredited lensmen shot the entertainment material in the 1920s. Read More »

Fay Bainter
Alfredo Valente - 1927-1967 - NY
Alfred Valente produced dramatically lit, richly toned stage pictures. His rise correspondended with the 1930s reaction against the artistic manipulations of prints performed by M. I. Boris, G. Maillard Kesslere, and Hal Phyfe in the late 1920s. He believed straight portraiture could be rendered dramatic by camera angles and lighting, so artistic effect was achieved in the set up of the shot by dynamic arrangement of the subject rather than by the manipulation of the negative. His organization of pictorial space was greatly influenced by the representational painters of the 1930s. His production work for the Group Theater is particuarly noteworthy. His portrait work for film studios tends to have lighter backgrounds than his stage portraiture. Valente signed his exhibition works in pencil in the lower margin or on white mounting board. His theatrical publicity work was usually stamped on the back. Read More »

Helen Broderick
Shields Collection
Florence Vandamm - 1923-1950 - NY
Florence Vandamm specialized in portraits of theatrical performers in costume, whether in modern fashion or historical dress. A traditionalist when it came to posing, she preferred to present sitters in formal poses in richly shadowed settings. A straight photographer, she declined to manipulate the negative beyond retouching of blemishes and refining skin tone. There was a seriousness to her images that suited the sobriety of the country during the 1930s. Tommy Vandamm's production shots were usually taken after the final dress rehearsal of a production. His shots were noteworthy for the clarity with which they showed the focus of stage action. In the later 1930s and 1940s he had the stage managers up the lighting level of the stages during shooting to confine the tonal range of the images. When Florence took over production shooting from 1944 to 1950, she reverted to the chiarascuro lighting of the 1930s. From 1930 to 1950 Vandamm Studio chronicled over 2,000 productions. In their latter years the couple's instinct for what would work on stage became legendary. A frown from Tommy Vandamm foretold dire things, and a smile from Florence was surity of success. Read More »

Fay Bainter
White Studios - 1903-1939 - NY
White Studios dominated production photography in the New York theater for two decades, specializing in frontal panoramas of theatrical action taken during dress rehearsals and occasionally during performances. Because the exposure of the glass plates required that casts remain motionless for as long as 45 seconds, the production shots from 1904-1913 seem wooden and pedestrian. George W. Lucas, chief location photographer, became more innovative and intimate during the 1910s. White Studios also had a portrait department. Edward Thayer Monroe's depictions of the early Ziegfeld performers are quite artistic, including the iconic view of Bessie McCoy sitting on the Crescent Moon. Another noteworthy body of early works are Lucas's production views of 'Chanticleer.' Read More »

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