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A Brief History of Glamour Photography: Part 1

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A Brief History of Glamour Photography. I’m sure you’re thinking “wow…how can that be brief” well I was able to break it down into 2 parts that will hopefully interest you enough to do some additional research.

Glamour photography is a very broad photographic genre.  Often times “Glamour” gets a negative or sleazy connotation attached to it but Glamour Photography is far from that.

Unfortunately because it encompasses a fairly broad range of styles, Glamour can be the “bucket” that some sleazy or questionable styles get dropped into.  Let’s look at the word Glamour.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Glamour as:

“an exciting and often illusory and romantic attractiveness<the glamour of Hollywood>; especially: alluring or fascinating attraction —often used attributively <glamourstock> <glamour girls>”

So by definition, Glamour isn’t sleazy at all.  Glamour is simply wanting to visually create an allure or attractiveness.  Many types of photography accomplish this task without being bawdy, cheap or sleazy.

Garbo "The Temptress"

Garbo “The Temptress”

The History of Glamour Photgraphy.

In the 1920’s Ruth Harriet Louise, Chief Portrait Photographer at MGM studios, started photographing Hollywood Stars with the goal of making them appear bigger than life or glamourous.  This style was to help create the alluring, almost mythological image of the Stars.

The example to the right shows a classic Hollywood glamour portrait promoting the motion picture “The Temptress” with Greta Garbo.

Part of the promotion for the films were to have these types of glamour portraits taken to create the allure of the star, character, and motion picture.

Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake

Another great example of classic Hollywood Glamour Photography is this portrait by George Hurrell of Veronica Lake.

First, I think Veronica Lake was without question one of the most beautiful women EVER!  Second, George Hurrell helped create the Hollywood glamour image we recognize today.

The dramatic Paramount style light with the wonderful hair light are classic identifiers to the Hollywood Glamour look.

George Hurrell was a master at this kind of photography.

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

Glamour photography was not exclusive to women of that era. Here’s a George Hurrell portrait of my favorite actor of that time Humphrey Bogart.  Notice the fantastic lighting technique and the control of Chiaroscuro.  Fantastic portrait!

The idea of glamour photography was simply to create an image and attractiveness to Hollywood stars.

That same goal is evident today when you see promotional materials for movies although the medium may include still portraits, video movie trailers, or social media such as Facebook or MySpace.

I just wanted to dispel any misconceptions that “Glamour” as a genre means something sleazy, bawdy or inappropriate.

Michelle - Film Noir

Michelle – Film Noir

This last picture is mine.  I wanted to capture a kind of “film noir” look with some bold lighting from the model’s back (kind of old fashioned big flash bulb look) with the atmosphere lending a kind of haziness to the scene.  Clearly a glamour shot yet thematic in the context of a modern depiction of the old film noir style.

To emphasize, glamour in it’s origin was not meant to be anything other than making a visual representation more appealing, alluring and attractive.

I will follow-up with more discussions on glamour photography and further define the genre.  As I said at the beginning of this post, “Glamour” is huge catch-all genre that really needs to be sub-categorized in order to make some sense.

If that was interesting, read A Brief History of Glamour Photography: Part 2!

Thanks for reading!

Our Glamorous cover model is: Sweet Michelle Marie of Seattle, WA.  To learn more about Michelle, please visit her here: GlamModel Michelle.  Michelle’s, photography is supplied by Ronin Photography & Design.


Article courtesy of Don Taniguchi of Ronin Photography & Design, contributing photographer to GlamModelz Magazine and a highly sought after glamour photographer and educator in the Pacific Northwest.  You can read the original version in his blog at Ronin Photography & Design Glamour Category.


I'm a Boise, Idaho based Professional Photographer specializing in portrait and commercial photography. I have been working in the Boise Valley for almost 10 years developing my unique style combining creativity with technical expertise. Shooting in the studio or on location, I always achieve the finest art for my clients. Ronin Photography & Design. Don has published 19, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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