The John Kobal Foundation Archive consists of a substantial collection of black and white original negatives and vintage prints from 1920-1960 featuring Hollywood star portraits, scene stills and production and publicity images.
John Kobal was a pre-eminent film historian and collector of Hollywood film photography. The author of over 30 books on film and film photography, he is credited with essentially 'rediscovering' the great Hollywood studio photographers who were employed by the movie studios to create the glamorous, iconic portraits of the most famous and intriguing stars of the day that now epitomise the golden days of Hollywood. Kobal's mission in the 1970s and 80s was to reunite these forgotten artists with their original negatives and produce new prints for exhibitions he then mounted at many international museums including The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. and the National Portrait Gallery, London. These prints, along with the original vintage prints from the studio days, form the core of the John Kobal Foundation Archive that he donated to the foundation prior to his death in 1991.
John Kobal established the Foundation in 1990 to advance the study and exhibition of photography, especially as it related to portraits. At his death in October 1991, The John Kobal Foundation received his collection of original 8x10 photographic negatives and fine art prints produced by the Hollywood studio photographers. From the start, the Foundation has made grants to help early career portrait photographers create new work, supported photography exhibitions and books and promoted the study of classic Hollywood through the publication of both books and exhibitions on the Hollywood Portrait Photographers.
Partnering with the National Portrait Gallery (London), the Foundation sponsored the John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award for ten years from 1993 until 2003. The related exhibition of the finest portrait photographs by young, contemporary photographers was a popular success, and it soon became the most prestigious award devoted to portrait photography in the United Kingdom.
Today the Foundation primarily continues to fund the commission of new works by early-career photographers through the John Kobal New Work Awards. For the past six years, as part of the annual Taylor Wessing Awards, it has sponsored an annual commission through which a photographer under thirty is engaged to shoot a portrait, of an emerging talent in the British film or television industry, for the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery. In the recent past, The Foundation was one of the sponsors of the annual National Media Museum First Book Award, part of the Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards, which (in partnership with MACK) supports the publication of a book by a previously unpublished photographer. It was also a sponsor of Photo London providing funding for a residency in New York for an emerging photographer.