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Studio, DeBarron

Time Period: 
150 West 46th Street, Manhattan

DeBarron Studio emerged as a major force in theatrical and glamour photography in 1927 and continued as a major player in the Manhattan scene until 1937 when it was puchased by Empire Studios.  It evolved out of an earlier enterprise, Paul's Studio, organized by Paul Barron (camera artist) and A. J. Zuckerman (chief financial officer) located at 44 West 46th Street.  "Paul's" first important theatrical clients, Lina Basquette and Ruby Keeler, were dancers, and they spread word among the Broadway dance community about the artistry of the sittings.  Yet the name of the business and its location was deemed too pedestrian.  

Zuckerman underwrote the building of a new luxurious studio at 150 West 46th Street, and in 1927 the partners moved, rebranding the business by adding a European "de" to Paul's last name.  DeBarron's Studio vaulted to the front of the glamour trade, in part by the accidental death of John de Mirjian, in part by Florenz Ziegfeld's decision to hire DeBarron's as the principle photographer of his shows for the 1927-28 theatrical season. Paul Barron's prints had a stylistic hallmark, a penchant for low-contrast images with a subtle concentration in silvers and grays, making glossy silver prints resemble the plantinum prints of the pre-World War 1 era.  This mode proved suitable for sitters who were young, fit, and fine-featured.  By sacrificing shadow (being explored in Hollywood by high-key contrast photographers of the post-Hurrell Hollywood generation), DeBarron sacrificed the Society portrait market, in which many an older client found shadow useful for obscuring less attractive wrinkles and features.  

Because the Broadway revues had moved toward an increasing exposure of male and female flesh, DeBarron took up Alfred Cheney Johnston's drape shots as a line of risque portraiture. Barron, like Johnston, had a sense of taste. He could not bring himself to take Showgirl photography in the direction of raunchiness that burlesque photographers, such as Strand Studio, Bruno of Hollywood, Murray Korman,and Maurice Seymour of Chicago, were exploring. The ideals of beauty that his old competitiors Johnston and de Mirjian had projected remained standards to emulate. As the revues began to become increasingly political and less carnal on Depression Broadway, DeBarron kept his faith in female beauty, and, alas, saw his business decline.

On March 3, 1936, A. J. Zuckerman sold the business to Empire Studios, though the brand name remained intact until November 1940 when the studio was again resold. Photographer Paul Barron was not associated with the latter incarnations of the brand.  David S. Shields/ALS


Paul Barron specialized in glamorous Showgirl portraits and theatrical scene photography. He was an expert at "Drape Shots" in which girls wore drapes instead of clothes. He did a great amount of portfolio work for aspiring actresses and B level stars. He favored light backgrounds and managed to place images with newspapers regularly. Less daring than de Mirjian, less elegant than Alfred Cheney Johnston, more classy than burlesque specialist Strand Studio, DeBarron embodied the norm of beauty portraiture in New York during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He would manipulate the negative to pretty up a picture, yet his taste for simplicity led him to eliminate details in pictures rather than add objects to supply visual interest.