LIGHT AND ILLUSION,THE HOLLYWOOD PORTRAITS OF RAY JONES (1998) by Tom Zimmerman is an interesting look at the career of Ray Jones who was chief portrait photographer at Universal Studios from 1935 to 1958.It is edited by John Jones ,the son of Ray Jones.
The book is full of many wonderful photographs taken by Ray Jones who, like nearly all the Hollywood studio photographers,was rarely credited. They were just part of a studio’s publicity department and remained anonymous studio employees.
I didn’t know that initially in Hollywood the first on the set stills were taken by the film’s cinematographer. But when the public began demanding more photographs of the stars, the studios started employing photographers specifically for that purpose.
Studios would soon have their own portrait gallery. Sittings could last an hour or all day,requiring costumes,makeup artists and hair stylists. It would Ray Jones’s responsibility to soothe the stars,find their best angle,adjust the lights to bring out their most flattering features.
Marlene Dietrich, in the portrait gallery for SEVEN SINNERS, insisted on a large mirror being placed near her so that she could see how she was being posed.
Ray started photographing Deanna Durbin from a young age, and some of his pictures of Deanna are stunning.
Maria Montez and John Hall were regularly photographed by Ray. And many freelance and loaned stars who appeared in Universal films – James Stewart,Irene Dunne,Claudette Colbert and Carole Lombard. Ray photographed all of them.
I also learned that stills photographers were regarded as below the portrait photographers in order of importance at the studios. (The stills photographers would take the photos on the set or at film premieres, or any other photos needed by the studio outwith the portrait galleries.)
The studio portrait gallery was also responsible for taking fashion layouts for movie magazines.
Something that still goes on today. When the studio session was over, the film would be developed and selected images would be sent to retouchers who would clean up flaws,facial blemishes which would all evaporate!
The book features a marvellous 1940 photo, not by Ray Jones, but by Paramount stills dept head,A.L.Whitey Schafer, who put together a photo showing all the elements that couldn’t be included in stills!
The book has a foreword by Robert Stack who said,
“Ray took me under his wing and showed me how to make sense of an often senseless business.”
As Tom Zimmerman says, “Aside from the films themselves,their images became the enduring form of the Golden Age of Hollywood.”