September 20, 2023

Who is the woman holding a torch on the Columbia Pictures logo?

When photographer Kathy Anderson and her colleague Jenny Joseph did an impromptu photo shoot, neither of them thought it would become immortal.  (Alex Cochran for Yahoo / Kathy Anderson Photography)

When photographer Kathy Anderson and her colleague Jenny Joseph did an impromptu photo shoot, neither of them thought it would become immortal. (Alex Cochran for Yahoo/Kathy Anderson Photography)

Jenny Joseph was not a model. She was not an actress. She had never posed professionally before or since. But after a chance shoot, the doe-eyed British woman became one of the most iconic figures in contemporary film.

Joseph, as you can see, is instantly recognizable as Miss Liberty, the torch-wielding figure in the Columbia Pictures logo that flashes for each of the studio’s films.

“We’re both amused by the attention it’s getting, even to this day,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Kathy Anderson, who shot the reference photos for artist Michael Deas, who used the images as inspiration to create the 1992 version. the studio’s paint logo, which is still used today.

An image of Jenny Joseph modeling for a reference photo used by artist Michael Deas as the basis for the Columbia Pictures logo, shot in photographer Kathy Anderson's New Orleans apartment.  (Credit: Kathy Anderson)

An image of Jenny Joseph modeling for a reference photo used by artist Michael Deas as the basis for the Columbia Pictures logo, shot in photographer Kathy Anderson’s New Orleans apartment. (Credit: Kathy Anderson)

It all began in the bustling, jazz-filled heart of New Orleans in the early 1990s, when Deas—whose paintings of famous figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe hang in museums around the world and appear on several U.S. postage stamps — was commissioned by Columbia Pictures to update its famous logo, featuring a draped woman holding up a torch like the Statue of Liberty, a repetition of which has appeared at the beginning of every Columbia Pictures film since 1924.

In its early days, the film studio featured a female Roman soldier with a shield in her left hand as its main image, before updating it in 1928 to a woman with a draped flag and torch.

Over the next several decades, Columbia introduced variations on the logo – inspired by actresses Evelyn Venable (who also voiced the Blue Fairy in Disney’s Pinocchio) and Jane Bartholomew, who was reportedly paid $25 for her efforts and whose likeness inspired the image eventually used by the studio from 1936 to 1976.

387070 04: An image of Columbia Pictures' famous Miss Liberty logo is seen on a wall on March 23, 2001 in Jane Bartholomew's Crestwood, IL.  nursing home.  Jane, 81, says she modeled for Columbia Pictures' famous Miss Liberty logo in the 1940s. She remembers being one of many extras commissioned by Columbia Pictures' boss, at the time, Harry Cohn in 1941 to pose as Miss Liberty for which she was paid $25.  While other women have been named as the final model, Bartholomew is certain the icon was based on her likeness.  Originally from Burgettstown, PA., she boarded a bus in Washington, PA at the age of 16.  on the way to Hollywood, CA.  Today, three Columbia icon photographs sent to her by the studio in 1975 grace a wall in the nursing home room where she lives.  She can no longer speak due to a stroke.  (Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

An image of Columbia Pictures’ famous Miss Liberty logo as seen on a wall in Jane Bartholomew’s home in 2001. The actress helped inspire the look for the famous logo, one of several actresses commissioned by Columbia Pictures to pose as Miss Liberty, for which she was paid only $25. (Photo: Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

When Deas was approached by the studio to paint a modern version of Miss Liberty, he knew he needed an exceptional photographer to capture images he could refer to throughout the creative process. Then he recruited Anderson, who grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“Over the years I’ve done a lot of reference photos for Michael, including book covers and commissioned portraits,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment. “So when he contacted me about shooting a reference for the project, I immediately said yes.”

Anderson was working as a photographer for the local newspaper at the time, The Times Picayune, and when it came time to start looking for models, she explains that Deas didn’t have much success. One of hers Times Picayune colleagues suggested Joseph, then 28, who worked as a graphic artist for the publication.

Joseph was in the right place at the right time. The first model agreed to help Anderson during an impromptu lunch break.

“They wrapped a sheet around me and I held a regular little desk lamp, a side lamp,” Joseph recalled that day during a 2012 interview with 4WWL. (Joseph, who never modeled again, declined to talk to Yahoo for this story.) “I just held that up and we did that with a light bulb.”

“She turned out to be perfect,” Anderson tells Yahoo Entertainment of Joseph, recalling the day she transformed her New Orleans home for the shoot.

“After moving my dining room table and converting my apartment living room into a studio, I put in a mottled gray backdrop,” she recalls. “I put a few boxes on the floor to let the fabric drape. I put a Polaroid back on the Hasselblad camera to start with some test shots.”

Deas had a certain vision for the piece, including a style of lighting that Anderson used regularly. Her penchant for big softbox lighting modifiers proved perfect for the job, she says, noting the “soft lighting” choices that accentuated “every crease in the material” and flattered Joseph.

Anderson recalls that the session began after Deas arrived with a “box of warm croissants from his favorite French Quarter baker and various props,” including “sheets, fabric, a flag, and a small lamp with a lightbulb sticking out of the top.”

“The lamp vaguely resembled a torch,” notes Anderson, who wrapped blue cloth atop a white sheet draped over Joseph’s body. “The materials were carefully arranged,” she recalls. And so, “we began a few hours of fun and creative amalgamation of shooting, studying Polaroid test prints, and rearranging the sheet wrapped around Jenny.”

In the interview with 4WWN, Deas recalled the kindness that Joseph exuded on the day of the shoot.

“At one point she just started trudging a bit and she said very politely, in her lovely British accent, ‘Do you mind if I sit down?'” he said. “And she sat on the edge of the stage and announced that she had just found out she was pregnant.”

Joseph couldn’t help but laugh as he recalled the memory of 4WWN: “Now my daughter can claim she was there too. … You never know how paths will cross and what will come out of events. I always tell my kids that if something happens, just go for it.”

Admittedly, Deas added, he never thought the image would make it to the silver screen. Frankly, neither did Anderson.

“I was amazed when I first saw the logo in a movie theater,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Seeing the image come to life on the big screen seemed surreal. After a while, the image took on a life of its own, which surprised me completely. Decades after its creation, people are still fascinated by the image.”

Anderson and Joseph, who are still friends, enjoy reminiscing about their contribution to film history.

“We were both surprised by the prominence of the logo,” she explains. “To this day, Jenny occasionally sends me funny GIFs that people have made of the logo.”

While the image has stood the test of time, for Anderson, a married mother of two grown children, it is an even greater gift.

“When my kids heard I did the reference photo, they thought I was cool,” she says, “which is priceless.”

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