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Karl Struss Edit Profile

photographer , cinematographer

Karl Struss was an American photographer and a cinematographer of the 1900s through the 1950s. He was also one of the earliest pioneers of 3-D films.


Karl Struss was born in 1886 in New York, United States.


Struss spent four years studying photography at Columbia University, New York City (1908-12).


He began photography in 1896. At age seventeen he went to work at his father's bonnet-wire factory, where he remained until 1914. In that year he received his first commission: he was hired by the Bermuda government to produce tourist pictures. Struss served in the armed forces during World War I, after which he set up his own studio in New York, from which he produced illustrations for such publications as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair and several newspapers and made some autochrome covers for the American lournal of Photography. After three years he closed his studio and moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a cameraman for Cecil B. DeMille (1919-22). Struss then freelanced as a cinematographer, working for Paramount Studios, United Artists, MGM and several indepen¬dent producers as well, until his retirement in 1970.

In his early days as a still photographer he made the Struss Pictorial Lens (1909), publishing a descriptive and illustrative brochure about it in 1915. As a cinematographer he devised a special filter technique that was used in Ben Hur (1926) to visually transform lepers to health and in Dr. fekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) to change Jekyll into Hyde without optical cuta-ways. In 1928 Struss received an Academy Award for his work on the film Sunrise.

A few of his credits as a director of photography include: The Fly (1958), Limelight (1952), Rock- etship XM (1950), The Great Dictator (1940), Anything Goes (1936), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Abraham Lincoln (1930), Taming of the Shrew (1929) and Fool's Paradise (1921).

Although his cinematic career has tended to overshadow his still photography, Struss has continued to work on his images, of which he states: "Composition seems to be natural to me. Perhaps most of my images are gentle, but I do have dra¬matic ones, too. They have a luminous, rich quality - this is found both in the pictorial prints and on the motion picture screen."


  • PUBLICATIONS Anthology: Pictorial Photography in Britain, 1900-1920, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978. Catalog: Karl Struss: Man with a Camera, 1976 (The Museum: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.). Periodical: Camerawork, Apr 1912.


Co-founder of Pictorial Photographers of America, Struss was also a member of Stieglitz's Photo-Secession, 1912-17. He also holds membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the American Society of Cinematographers, and was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


Clarence White

Struss spent four years studying photography under Clarence White at Columbia University.