Barry Kramer was one of the most prolific photographers of his time. Like many before him, he was unknown during life but revered after death. His images capture the essence of a time gone by in American culture and entertainment and were rarely seen by the world.
With a born artistic eye, his photographic ability became obvious in his teens where he took countless opportunities to capture entertainment celebrities in places others never sought out. An advertising major at NYU, he was drafted into the military in his senior year and assigned to the USO photo corps touring with icons of entertainment in Europe. Here he built bonds with Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others who became pivotal in his success after the war. In the early years he focused on shooting the great jazz artists of the era when they appeared at the popular jazz clubs in NY; Metronome and Downbeat magazines purchased his images for publication. In the early 50’s he was introduced to Jayne Mansfield who at the time was unknown. Once her acting career took off she relied upon his artistic eye which eventually translated into a cover story in Life magazine.
Like a stack of dominoes, he built one relationship after another moving his photo career forward. When Eileen and Jerry Ford launched what was to become the biggest fashion model agency, his talents were called upon regularly for model portfolio and fashion shoots. Having worked with Sinatra’s publicist for years, he soon developed relationships with other publicity groups moving his work into commercial, theatrical and event photography. During this period he worked closely with Guy Lombardo’s production group which then led to contacts with Broadway and concert venues.
The American Cancer Society hired him to cover all fund raising events where celebrity spokespeople appeared. Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, Louis Armstrong, Eddie Fisher and countless others enjoyed working with him due to his easy going style, artistic eye and sense of humor. A Bohemian type before it was fashionable, Barry’s artistic abilities behind the camera were unique; his compassion, love for his work and people were the basis for his success.
See all photos by Barry Kramer