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John Engstead

( 1912 - 1984 )

Born in Los Angeles, California

1926 Hired as an office boy by Harold Harley, head of studio publicity, Paramount.

1927 Still as an office boy arranges on his own initiative for Otto Dyar to photograph Clara Bow in a garden exterior, an unusual setting for its day. Resulting photographs hailed by Harley as "Clara Bow's best sitting."

1928 In response to fan magazine requests, Engstead appointed Paramount magazine contact on condition he wear a coat and tie every day.

1929-41 Promoted to art supervisor, putting him in charge of all stills, based on his creative direction of photographs of Louise Brooks in The Canary Murder Case (1929). Assumes position of studio portrait photographer during a still photographers strike (1932), despite never having photographed anyone before. Cary Grant poses for his practice shots. Resumes art supervisor's job when strike concludes.

1941 Fired from Paramount, undertakes freelance advertising and portrait photography assignments "on spec" for Harper's Bazaar.

1942-49 Continues fashion photography on assignment for Harper's Bazaar along with assignments from Collier's, Esquire, House Beautiful, Ladies Homes Journal, Life, Look, Mademoiselle, McCall's, Vogue, and Women's Home Companion.

1942-54 Photographs celebrity clients outdoors and at home, an innovation in fashion photography. Photographs annual spring and fall fashion collections for Adrian.

1949-50 Builds studio in Los Angeles, which becomes a gathering place for celebrities.

1950-70 Commercial work and society portraiture.

1950s Photographs promotional portraits for television personalities.

1970 Closes studio. While in semiretirement continues to accept special celebrity portraiture and television assignments.


Star Shots (New York: Dutton, 1978).

See all photos by John Engstead