Glamor of the ’30s Through Otto Dyar’s Lens

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Otto Dyar (1892-1988) was an American prominent stills photographer who began his career at the Paramount studios in the 1920s. Initially working as an assistant on major film productions, Dyar quickly rose through the ranks to become one of Hollywood’s most notable image-makers.

Classic beauties photographed by Otto Dyar in the 1930s

During the 1930s and 40s, Dyar developed his own, highly dramatic style of lighting and photography that deviated from the neoclassical glamor of the 1920s. Edgy and expressionistic, Dyar’s photographs pushed the iconic features of movie stars like Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis and Joan Crawford to a grittier place that was more in accord with the aesthetics of films made in those decades. Of particular note are Dyar’s star portraits taken outside of the studio, an unusual and daring step at the time.

Despite all the high-contrast lighting, skewed angles and often tiny ‘surrealist’ interventions that point to the influence of photographers like Man Ray, Dyar faithfully accomplished the task of elevating the studio stars to the realm of deities. Like his peers George Hurrell, Ted Allen and Clarence Sinclair Bull, Dyar was not concerned with the psychologies of his sitters. What interested him was amplifying and consolidating the image the stars exuded in their roles, which was usually so powerful that it eclipsed the ‘real’ person that was in front of the camera.

During the 1950s, Dyar left Paramount and moved to MGM where he continued to work up to mid 1950s. His work can be found in the collections of Metropolitan Museum of Art and other major art museums throughout the USA.

These glamorous photos of classic beauties are part of his work that Dyar took in the 1930s.

Adrianne Allen

Adrienne Ames

Alice Faye

Anna May Wong

Carole Lombard

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