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© David S. Shields

Photographers for Ziegfeld #8: Herman Mishkin_david  Jun 20, '09 7:19 AM
by david for group historicalziegfeldgroup #097

If Ira L. Hill was Ziegfeld's preferred portraitist for women receiving featured billing in his productions during the mid-1910s, he steered men to the studio of Herman Mishkin. The Russian-born camera artist possessed painted backdrops no less splendid than those possessed by Hill, but Mishkin's experience photographing the dynamic male leads of the Metropolitan Opera (for whom he served as official photographer) made him preferable in Ziegfeld's view as a dramatizer of masculinity. So Will Rogers, W. C. Fields, Leon Erroll, and others of the Follies stalwarts made their ways to Mishkin.

The one female exception to this was Annette Kellerman, featured in the 1914 Follies, who was famous as a swimmer, diver, physical culture adept, and dancer. Kellerman's decidedly heroic persona seemed more like a figure from the world of opera than that of the chorus line, so she too went to Mishkin. What is interesting about the surviving Mishkin portraits for Ziegfeld were their lack of ornamental background. While Mishkin's portraits of classical singers and dancers are justly famous, he created an equally compelling body of work representing theatrical performers. His portraits of Francine Larrimore are among the most memorable by any photographer of the 1910s and '20s. David S. Shields

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