Hollywood - Photographs of Celebrities From The 1920s
The History of Celebrity Photography
Still photographs were used as early as the 1890's by the Hollywood film studios to document the movies and promote their stars. The early Hollywood photographers were freelancers hired by the celebrities themselves. This gave the photographers a lot more freedom, resulting in very intimate and personal portraits of the stars.
The large format cameras of the day produced an 8x10 negative, making the print of the same size extremely clear and detailed. But composing the shot and focusing the camera could take a bit of time, so the celebrities were posed in easily held positions.
In 1911 the first fan magazine - Motion Picture, was published. It was soon followed by, Movie Life, Photoplay, Screen Stories and many more. The public demand for photos of the celebrities was exploding and these magazines helped to fill that need.
Hollywood Fan Magazines
The fan magazines provided a window for the adoring fans of the early 20th century. They gave a glimpse into the glamorous lifestyles of the Hollywood celebrities and reported "exclusive" insights into intimate details of their lives. Whether or not these accounts were true, was incidental.
Hollywood Studio Photographers
The popularity of the magazines led the studios to establish their own photography departments, giving them more control over style and content of the photographs. They even created their own magazines. In the studio magazines, however, the personal stories were made up by the studios to make the sometimes boring lives of celebrities more exciting and movie-like.
By 1930, every major studio had a full-time photographer in their publicity department. Their goal was to create idols adored by the public and add to the mystic behind the image portrayed on screen. Though most of the pictures were claimed to be natural, without makeup and not retouched, the studios had many more retouchers in their employ than photographers. Fixing minor flaws in the complextion was easy on the 8x10 negatives of the day.Lighting also played a big part in the perfection of the image. It was used with great technique and much planning to give the best possible results. These lighting techniques were kept secret by the photographers, allowing for individual artistry.
These early photographers left a legacy of timeless photographs for us, not only to enjoy, but to learn from. They are perfect examples of the use of artistic technique, light, setting and mood.