In a career than spanned over forty years, Nickolas Muray (1892-1965) established himself as a photographer who remained at the cutting edge of his profession.
“Photography, fortunately, to me has not only been a profession but also a contact between people–to understand human nature and record, if possible, the best in each individual.”
Born in Szeged, Hungary on February 15, 1892, Muray arrived in the United States when he was 21 years old, armed with a fifty word English vocabulary, an International Engravers Certificate, and determined to make a name for himself. He settled in New York City and promptly found work doing engraving and color separation for Stockinger in Greenpoint, Brooklyn; four years later, he was working as color technician and engraver, doing color separation negatives for Vanity Fair.
In 1920, in a shared studio in Greenwich Village, he built a reputation as celebrity photographer overnight, with the portrait he did of actress Florence Reed for Harper’s Bazaar. Public relations manager Edward Bernays sought him out to do portraits of his famous clients, and during the next ten years, Muray made over 10,000 portraits of celebrities of the artistic, literary, musical, theatrical, and political world, influencing the evolving style of glamour portraiture.
In 1930, Muray earns a contract with Curtis Publications, publisher of Ladies Home Journal, for whom he pioneers, for the July, 1931, the first natural color commercial photograph in a magazine in the United States, leading the way for color advertisement. Contracts to do fashion photography for Vogue, and covers for McCalls, TIME, and Dell Publications will follow, as well as other contracts.
During this time, Muray holds several exhibitions of his work and is made a fellow by the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain; and becomes a champion fencer and an Olympic fencing medalist.
Nickolas Muray dies while fencing in New York City, in 1965.