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Hollywood - Photographs of Celebrities From The 1920s

Updated on March 14, 2011

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.

Mary Pickford

One of the first Hollywood Celebrities
One of the first Hollywood Celebrities

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.

Douglas Fairbanks

Classic Hollywood Celebrity
Classic Hollywood Celebrity

Rudolph Valentino

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.

Gloria Swanson

Famous Hollywood Celebrity
Famous Hollywood Celebrity

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.

Lillian Gish

Louise Brooks


Submit a Comment
  • Anik Gypsy profile image

    Anik Gypsy 

    6 years ago from 129, North Chashara, Narayangang, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1400

    wow these phtos are amazing. I always knew photographers of the past were very talented. I still gasp when I look my grand mother's photo album cause They all look like they're vintage Vogue photos But I never though that they were so artistic. The photo graphers who knew how to fix flaws with their secret technique possibly created the idea of photo shop. or maybe their family member's built that software. who knows ? thanks you for your great Hub @lafenty. I appreciate it

  • profile image

    jo jo 

    8 years ago

    Thanks for some wonderful photos

  • MarySmith1970 profile image


    8 years ago

    Great photo pics! I love the Silents.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Hi! I have Hollywood actors old photos.

    But i do not know who is on the pictures.

    Can you help me to find out?

    I yes i will send you the photos.

    Thank you!


  • profile image


    8 years ago

    i have a lot of pics from actress 1920s an 1940s

  • fastfreta profile image

    Alfreta Sailor 

    9 years ago from Southern California

    Beautiful hub. Loved the photos also.

  • The Bard profile image

    The Bard 

    9 years ago from London, England & San Pablo City, Philippines

    I really enjoyed this. Excellent stuff!

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 

    9 years ago from California Gold Country

    Pickford-- what a sweetheart, and Fairbanks-- what a hunk.

  • profile image

    Leta S 

    9 years ago

    I love old black and whites from the the 1910-20's. Beautiful.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Loved this hub!!! what grace and beauty the original actresses had.

  • Lgali profile image


    10 years ago

    very nice hub old photos looks nice


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