Sid Avery (October 12, 1918 – July 1, 2002) was an American photographer and director who was best known for capturing the private moments of legendary Hollywood celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn as showcased in his book Hollywood at Home
Avery was born in Akron, Ohio on October 12, 1918. He was only nine months old when they decided to move out to Los Angeles, California, which is where he grew up. Sid Avery received his high school education at the institution of Roosevelt High School. He discovered his love and talent of photography when he was young due to the fact that he was able to work with his uncle, Max Tatch, who was a landscape and architectural photographer. His uncle was able to teach him the skills required to use cameras, film, and darkrooms. After he graduated from high school, Sid Avery worked in a camera store on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood where he further gained love and inspiration for photography. While working in the shop, he had opportunities to meet many famous photographers. This also encouraged him to take more photography classes. He also gained the experience of being a darkroom assistant.
He served in the Army in World War II. When he returned from the war, he began his work of photographing celebrities. Sid Avery eventually became one of the top advertising photographers in Los Angeles. He was also a director of television commercials. Sid Avery was married to Diana Avery. Together they had three children named Sandra Guttman, Marc Avery, and Ron Avery. Sid Avery also had three grandchildren.
He founded the Hollywood Photographer's Archive (HPA)
and which is known today as mptvimages.com in an effort to preserve the work of the early Hollywood photographers. Sid Avery's work was commonly featured in publications such as Life
, Look, Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post. There is a collection of his work, Hollywood at Home: A Family Album 1950-1965
, that was published by Crown in the year of 1990. He is most famous for his work of photography that captured the home life of famous celebrities at the time. He captured the celebrities in their own element aside from the glamour of fame. Sid Avery died at the age of 83 on July 1, 2002, in Los Angeles, California.
One of six children, Sid Avery was born in 1918 in Ohio and moved to Los Angeles at a young age. Avery repaired a broken brownie box camera that he had found, and with the tutelage of his architectural photographer uncle he began to learn the basics of the photographic profession. By the time he entered Roosevelt High School, Avery’s talent in photography won him numerous prizes and after graduation he landed a job at Morgan’s Camera store on Sunset Boulevard.
Avery was pursuing various odd photography jobs when World War II intervened. He was drafted into the Army, assigned to the Signal Corps, and selected to receive six months of training at Life
magazine in New York before being sent overseas. Avery was stationed in London and was placed in charge of the Army Pictorial Service Laboratory, where all the stills and combat footage that came out of the European Theater of Operations passed through his hands. This included the detailed, highly classified photomontages of the French coast which were produced for the Normandy invasion. In order to handle this special material, Avery was granted an immediate commission by General Eisenhower himself.
Photojournalism publications proliferated during the post-war years, and interest in film stars and their private lives grew to an all time high. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Avery photographed screen legends such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Clark Gable, James Dean, Marlon Brando, James Stewart, and Alfred Hitchcock. His photographic essays appeared in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, Look, Photoplay, Collier’s, Reader’s Digest, and many others.
Avery’s characteristically low key, unobtrusive manner struck a sympathetic chord with reclusive and difficult personalities like Humphrey Bogart, who generally refused to be photographed. Bogart would eventually allow himself to be photographed by Avery with his pregnant wife Lauren Bacall and his son Stephen at their home.
Sid Avery photographs have been exhibited and have been included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York
and San Francisco
, the International Center of Photography
in New York, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art