Cornel Lucas had an incomparable gift for conveying star power through his photographic portraits. Born in London’s Highbury in 1920, he rose to the top of his profession to become undoubtedly the pre-eminent film star portrait photographer in the UK, at a time when Hollywood legends were at their peak. Lucas’s brilliant career spanned five decades, but the 1940s and ’50s were perhaps his finest years, during which he photographed a plethora of icons. From leading men (Dirk Bogarde and David Niven), sirens (Marlene Dietrich), ingénues (Brigitte Bardot, Joan Collins) and comedians (Bob Hope), Lucas deftly combined inventive staging and dramatic lighting with a personal quality that connected the viewer with those unattainable figures.
Lucas became interested in the industry through his brother who worked in a film processing lab, and went on to study at Westminster University. During World War Two he worked as an experimental photographer for the RAF, and when the conflict ended, took a job at Denham Studios; one of his first assignments was assisting Cecil Beaton on an Alexander Korda film shoot. He never looked back. Photo Noir: The Art of Cornel Lucas is an exhibition at London’s National Theatre focusing on the powerful black and white portraits of the artist’s post-war heyday. The dates are 17 February to 29 March.