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Eileen Darby Lester

Eileen Darber Lester, a long time resident of Point Lookout, excelled in the art of photography. A woman before her time, she became a noted photographer:

"Eileen Darby Lester, a photographer who helped immortalize theatrical productions, taking pictures of more than 500 Broadway shows and photographing stars like Olivier, Dietrich and Brando, died on March 30 at a nursing home in Long Beach, N.Y. She was 87.

Her death followed a fall in front of her house in Point Lookout, N.Y., in November from which she never recovered, said Mary Henderson, who is writing a book about her.

Mrs. Lester, whose photographic credits used her maiden name, Darby, recorded images that have helped define the memory of some great productions. These include the picture of a terrified Blanche DuBois, played by Jessica Tandy, at the feet of a menacing Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) in Tennessee Williams's ''Streetcar Named Desire.''

Her photograph of the original production of Arthur Miller's ''Death of a Salesman,'' showing Jo Mielziner's entire set, was widely published.


Among the stars she photographed were Tallulah Bankhead, the Lunts, Helen Hayes, Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn and Paul Robeson. Other assignments included shooting Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at Yankee Stadium, Leonard Bernstein and President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline.

Eileen Darby was born in Portland, Ore., on May 12, 1916. Her father was an engineer who worked for the federal government and liked to photograph the dams and other large projects on which he worked. He taught his daughter photography and helped her set up her own darkroom, Dr. Henderson said.

Mrs. Lester studied biology at Marylhurst University near Portland, but left college at 20 to pursue photography in Manhattan.

She got a job with Pix, a Manhattan photo agency founded by Alfred Eisenstaedt. There she developed particular expertise at processing photographs and a reputation for going beyond what was necessary to make her subjects feel comfortable, Dr. Henderson said. She once turned down a chance to shoot Ingrid Bergman, whom she greatly admired, for fear of giving her a cold that she had.

In 1941 she left Pix and joined a few friends to form Graphic House, a photo agency. Many professional photographers dropped off their film there for processing, and she got to know them. Through a Life magazine photographer, she met Roy Lester, who eventually took over management of the agency and whom she married in 1944.

It was for Graphic House that many of her most notable pictures were taken. They were sold to many prominent publications.

Mr. Lester died in 1976. Mrs. Lester is survived by a daughter, Virginia Teslik of West Hills, Calif.; her sons Roy Jr., of Long Beach; John, of Mountain Lakes, N.J.; and Patric of St. Louis and San Diego; and six grandchildren.

Mrs. Lester stopped taking theatrical pictures after her husband died, Dr. Henderson said, because she felt dispirited about Broadway's new directions after the musical ''Hair'' opened in 1968."

... NY Times April 13, 2004,