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See Lost Photos of Hollywood Starlets by a Condé Nast Photographer

Helen Bennett Standing, by Lusha Nelson, c. 1935–1937. Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Photographer Lusha Nelson shot Hollywood starlets for Vanity Fair and Vogue in the 1930s. After his death in 1938, thousands of his images — of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, and Marian Anderson — were forgotten and hidden away in private homes. Now, a new museum exhibit is showcasing Nelson’s lost Condé Nast archive, featuring photographs of famous actresses and singers as well as images that capture everyday American life in the 1930s, like a girl scooping custard ice cream. Nelson also shot lesser-known stars, including tennis player Helen Wills Moody and author Marya Mannes.

Curators at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spent three years researching his photographs, which had been acquired from a woman whose family bought them from Nelson’s daughter’s estate, and found that Nelson was something of a prodigy: He first picked up a camera in the late 1920s when he was in his early 20s, and started photographing for Condé Nast spreads within four years. “He depicted such a wide range of cultural figures, and woman figures, in such a short amount of time,” said Dr. Sarah Lees, co-curator with Catherine Whitney. After the exhibit closes this May, they’ll spend the next several years investigating Nelson’s story and researching more photos.

Click ahead to preview the exhibit, titled “Lusha Nelson Photographs: Celebrity, the Forgotten Man, and 1930s America.”

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Helen Wills Moody, 1934, gelatin silver print.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Fay Wray, 1934, gelatin silver print. © Condé Nast Publications, published in Vanity Fair, September 1934.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Peggy Taylor, 1934, gelatin silver print. © Condé Nast Publications, published in Vanity Fair, October 1934.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Helen Bennett Standing, c. 1935–1937, gelatin silver print.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Jean Arthur, 1934, gelatin silver print. © Condé Nast Publications, published in Vanity Fair, August 1935.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Leone Sousa, 1934, gelatin silver print. © Condé Nast Publications, published in Vanity Fair, July 1934.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Marya Mannes, 1934, gelatin silver print.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

American Frozen Custard, 1935, gelatin silver print.

Photo: Courtesy of Philbrook Museum of Art; Tulsa

Tallulah Bankhead, 1935, gelatin silver print. © Condé Nast Publications, published in Vanity Fair, March 1935.

Lost Hollywood Photos by a Condé Nast Photographer