The behind-the-scenes of Hollywood has always been a boys’ club since its inception, so when Ruth Harriet Louise became the first woman to be a Hollywood photographer, it was a historic event.
Louise ran film magnate Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s studio for five solid years from 1925 to 1930 as the chief portrait photographer and was the only woman in such position among Hollywood studios. In the span of her tenure, she captured more than 100,000 glamour portraits of celebrities such as Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, and Norma Shearer.
Louise became a photographer that almost every celebrity would want to work with, even referring to her as “their” photographer.
How does her photography differ from the others? Louise could transform then-nobodies into stars, the famous Greta Garbo was such a case. During the golden film age, budding actors and actresses don’t perform screen tests. They were instead sent to the portrait studio for their glamour shot, and they send the photos to the magazines for promotion. If they sell, the actor-model would be bankable. She was also responsible for capturing the elusive Nina Mae McKinney, who was to star at the first all-African-American film by a major Hollywood studio.
Images are from the public domain.