For forty years Cornel Lucas was the best known photographer of Hollywood’s greatest actors when they were in England. Lucas, who first became interested in photography while working in a film processing lab, honed his skills in the Royal Air Force’s experimental school of photography.
Following the war Lucas worked for British Film Studios and began taking portraits of film stars who were making movies in the U.K. In 1951 he had a life-changing encounter with the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich, who knew nearly as much about photography as Lucas, was a difficult client but the results of the session were so stunning (top left) that he was given his own studio at Pinewood Studios.
He became a freelancer in 1959 and would continue to take portraits into the 1980s. Lucas’ work was celebrated in international exhibitions and is found in the National Portrait Gallery (UK) and the National Museum of Photography (UK). His achievements were recognized when he received the first ever “BAFTA” (the British Oscar) for a photographer in 1998. The Royal Mail also issued a series of postage stamps featuring Lucas’ portraits and labeled “Photograph by Cornel Lucas” in 1985.
Cornel Lucas passed away at the age of 92.
Sources: The Daily Telegraph and The Cornel Lucas Collection
Images, all copyright of Cornel Lucas:
Marlene Dietrich, 1951, courtesy of Time Lightbox (click for a full slideshow of Lucas’ work)
Joan Collins, 1953, courtesy of La Petite Melancolie
Self-Portrait, 1957, with upside down image of Lucas’ first wife Belinda Lee, courtesy of T for Tout (a tumblr)
Katharine Hepburn, 1948, courtesy of Mutual Art
Susan and Linda Travers, 1961, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Susan was his second wife