Vintage Celebrity Portraits by Benjamin J. Falk

When photographer Napoleon Sarony died in 1896, Benjamin J. Falk ascended to the first place in the world of performing arts photography.

Born on October 14th, 1853, Benjamin J. Falk grew up in New York City. He graduated from the College of the City of New York with a B.S. in 1872, while concurrently serving as a technician under photographer George Rockwood. His first ambition was to be a graphic artist, so he attended classes at the NY Academy of Design while maintaining a studio with Jacob Schloss:

“Being naturally of an investigating turn of mind he interested himself in scientific studies. After making crayons for five years, he enlarged his studio into a photographic gallery. In 1881 he moved to Broadway, where the business grew rapidly, developing largely in the line of portraits of celebrities” (source).

He often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. He did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900.

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Lillian Russell, bust portrait, facing front by Benjamin J. Falk (1889)

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Lillian Russell, 1861-1922, full length, standing, facing left; in elegant gown by Benjamin J. Falk (1904)

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk (1896)

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Dancer and pioneer Loïe Fuller by Benjamin J. Falk (1896)

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk (1881)

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British actress Lillie Langtry by Benjamin J. Falk (1881)

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