Engstead began his career in 1926, when he was hired as an office boy by Paramount Pictures’ head of studio publicity. Engstead impressed bosses and was promoted to art supervisor, where he oversaw the production of Paramount’s publicity stills. In 1932, Engstead assumed the position of studio portrait photographer, despite having never previously photographed anyone. By 1941, Engstead was working for various magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Life, Look and Vogue. Engstead built a studio in Los Angeles that became a gathering place for celebrities. Engstead continued to photograph movie stars and other celebrities through the 1950s and 1960s. Engstead closed his studio in 1970 but continued to accept special portrait and television assignments until his death.
See all photos by John Engstead