Eileen Darby Lester, Photographer Who Captured Broadway Shows, Dead at 87

Obituaries   Eileen Darby Lester, Photographer Who Captured Broadway Shows, Dead at 87
Eileen Darby Lester, a photographer who documented hundreds of Broadway shows by taking their production shots, died March 30 at a Long Island nursing home, The New York Times reported.

Mrs. Lester was 87 and had not recovered from a fall she took in November 2003, Mary Henderson, who is writing a book about her, told the Times.

Mrs. Lester attached her maiden name, Darby, to the striking photos she took of actors in and out character. As theatre experiences are ephemeral, indelible photos or illustrations are often the only record we have of shows of the past.

Among many other shows, Mrs. Lester captured the post war dramas Death of a Salesman and Streetcar Named Desire in her lens, creating a reputation for those plays in the public imagination, even if viewers didn't see the production. As the Times pointed out, her photo of the original staging of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, featuring Jo Mielziner's entire non realistic set, was widely published.

Among the stars and public figures she photographed were Tallulah Bankhead, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn, Paul Robeson, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Leonard Bernstein and President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Eileen Darby was born in Portland, OR, the Times reported. Mrs. Lester's father was an engineer who worked for the government and photographed the public projects he worked on, the Times reported. Mary Henderson told the Times young Eileen's father taught her photography and helped her create a darkroom. An early job with the photo agency Pix was followed by her co-founding Graphic House, a photo agency. Professional photographers would get their film processed there, the Times said, and through contact with a Life reporter she met her future husband, Roy Lester, who died in 1976.

Mrs. Lester reportedly stopped taking theatre pictures in the 1970s when she became disappointed by the nature of new Broadway shows.

Mrs. Lester is survived by a daughter, Virginia Teslik of West Hills, CA.; sons Roy Jr., of Long Beach; John, of Mountain Lakes, NJ; and Patric of St. Louis and San Diego; and six grandchildren.

A Darby photograph from the original production of <i>Death of a Salesman</i>
A Darby photograph from the original production of Death of a Salesman
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