Vandamm, Florence (1883–1966)

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Vandamm, Florence (1883–1966)

British portrait photographer. Born Florence Van Damm in 1883 in London, England; died in 1966 in New York City; married George R. Thomas (a photographer), in 1918 (died 1944); children: Robert.

Florence Vandamm was born Florence Vandamm in London in 1883. In 1908, she opened a photographic studio there, and also worked as a miniaturist and portrait painter. Her studio became an important meeting place for prominent painters, actors, musicians, and writers.

In 1917, she met George R. Thomas, an American photographer, and they were married the following year; their only son Robert would die during World War II. In 1919, Vandamm was elected a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. That same year, she went into partnership with her husband, who would use the name Tommy Vandamm professionally. He specialized in "on-stage" photographs, while Florence specialized in studio portraits of actors.

Because of high unemployment in England in 1923, the couple moved to New York City, where they eked out a living until 1925, when their photographic talent was rediscovered by Vogue and Vanity Fair; they had previously done work for these magazines in London. They also became important photographers for the Theater Guild, and covered over 2,000 Broadway productions from 1925 to 1950. Their subjects included Judith Anderson, Ethel Barrymore, Katharine Cornell , John Gielgud, Helen Hayes, Eva Le Gallienne , Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne , and Burgess Meredith. In 1944, Thomas died, and Vandamm, in addition to her studio work, began doing photographs on stage. In 1961, she donated her archives to the New York Public Library.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer