Tom Kelley Sr.

Tom Kelley was born December 12, 1914, in Philadelphia, and attended the city’s Nathan Hale High School. Tom’s interesting career first started as an apprentice in a New York photo studio that catered to the city’s upper 400, i.e. photographing the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Harrimans, the Morgans, etc. The owner of the studio was also chief photography instructor at the prestigious New York School of Photography. Working under him for the next four years gave Tom an excellent background for photography.

Following that, Tom was hired by Town and Country as a roving photographer traveling from coast to coast for the prestigious magazine. Coming to California in 1935, Kelley was retained to photograph the stars created by David O. Selznick and Samuel Goldwyn. Following a long and profitable career helping to publicize motion picture personalities, he drifted into the commercial and advertising photography and opened a studio in Hollywood.

Tom worked in Hollywood throughout the 1940's,1950's and 1960’s photographing about every kind of advertising assignment there was. Lots of pretty women (magazine covers), and lots of the cheesecake style for calendars too. One such photo, created in 1949, showed a young actress alluringly posed, totally nude, on a red velvet background. Photographer Tom Kelley, Sr. couldn't know the photo would become history and help define sexuality for generations. The actress' name was Marilyn Monroe.

A few of his most famous subjects have been Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Jack Benny, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt and, of course, Marilyn Monroe, with and without clothes.

Kelley Studios is operated by Tom Kelley Jr. and has amassed a huge collection of celebrity portraits, unique photo situations and photographic fine art – 6 decades of photographic works. The Smithsonian has several of Kelley’s photographs in the permanent collection, and museums and galleries worldwide collect Kelley’s images.

All images © Tom Kelley Sr.