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George W. Lucas

Time Period: 
17 West 48th Street, Manhattan


Born in Toronto and educated in Canada, George Lucas came to New York in 1904 where he was hired by Luther S. White, founder of White Studios, who had an exclusive contract on theatrical production photography with the Shubert organization. He possessed a thorough knowledge of photographic chemistry and a talent for technical invention. Lucas created the flash pan mechanism that enabled stage photos to be taken in theaters. His employer would claim to be inventor despite having nothing to do with the practical end of the studio. Flare photography remained the illumination method of choice for production shoots until the development of high speed film and the perfection of the electric flash bulb. For many years he served as chief photographer in the stable of production shooters maintained by White.

In 1936, when the lackluster Dexter White Studios assumed control of the studio, George Lucas and the studio's business manager quit and founded Lucas-Pritchard (later Lucas-Monroe). Lucas used his extensive connections in the Broadway world to keep his studio at 17 W. 48th Street viable. The studio's archives are preserved in the photography collection of the City Museum of New York. David S. Shields/ALS


Lucas photographed the best of the White Studio stage portraits. His earliest work 1905-1910 sometimes suffers from a rather schematic arrangement caused by slow shutter speeds. By the 1910s, faster exposures enable a looser, more spontaneous looking stage picture. Lucas did production stills of stage action taken usually dead center from the 10th row of the orchestra after the dress rehearsal. He also took to putting the camera on stage and shooting close up dramatic scenes, particularly in drawing room dramas. When leading his own studio from 1936-1942, he availed himself of hand-held cameras with high speed film and rapid shutters, so the pictures reflect the dynamism of stage action. He did not do portrait work.