Karl F. Struss

Dates1886 - 1981
BornNew York, New York, United States
DiedSanta Monica, California, United States

Claiming to have taken up photography in "self-defense" after working ten hours a day in his father's bonnet-wire factory, Karl Struss became a student of Clarence White at Columbia University. At the same time, he garnered the attention and praise of elder photographic statesman Alfred Stieglitz, who published Struss's work and selected twelve of his photographs for inclusion in the groundbreaking 1910 exhibition of Pictorialist photography at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York.

An indefatigable experimenter, Struss perfected a multi-layered platinum printing process and at age twenty-two developed the Struss Pictorial Lens, which became the first soft-focus lens used in motion pictures. In 1914 he took over White's New York studio, specializing in portraits, advertising, and commercial work. With White he co-founded the Pictorial Photographers of America.

After giving up his studio to serve during World War I, Struss moved to Hollywood and became a cinematographer for Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith. In 1928 he received the first Academy Award( for cinematography for Sunrise. Struss worked on more than a hundred films before his retirement in 1970, including 1925's Ben Hurand Charlie Chaplin's Limelight and The Great Dictator.