Portal of Glamour: 60 Years of Bob’s Studio

Text: GUILLERMO RAMOS
Pics: BOB RAZON

Although digital technology is being applied to every aspect of photography today, aspiring photographers can still learn so much from Bob Razon.

For Bob, having a good camera is not the only pre- requisite; it involves other disciplines as well. Portraiture is not just about your subject sitting in a chair; the imperative result should always be spectacular— capturing the deepest essence and minute nuances of the subject in every frame.

Bob opened his first studio in 1946 beside the historic Grand Opera House on Rizal Avenue. Because of his amiable disposition, creativity, resourcefulness, and astute business sense, his studio attracted personalities from the rising middle class and the expanding social elite, including journalists like E. Aguilar Cruz, Primitivo Mauricio and Renato Constantino of the Sunday Times Magazine.

The studio was soon to become the magazine’s virtual headquarters, as it witnessed the comings and goings of the famous and the almost famous in politics, society, art, and entertainment. Not only did they come to sit and be photographed, but they were also a wonderful source of information ranging from harmless little pieces of gossip to the pressing issues of the day.

To understand and appreciate the work of Bob Razon, one must look at the Renaissance artistic traditions. Early in the business, he had already realized the value of makeup and had taken courses in Westmore Beauty Salon in Hollywood, where he learned studio makeup. It was this exposure that allowed him to perfect what he had long known was important— chiaroscuro—the playful use of light and shadow. Combined with contropostro, he achieved mannerist elegance through stylized poses; the tilt of the head counterpointing the shoulders and upper torso or by turning the negative at an angle before printing, resulting in an asymmetrical composition in which the otherwise static pose becomes dynamic. His timeless works in the ’50s and ’60s were deceptively uncomplicated studies in composition that created an aura of heightened sophistication.

Floy Quintos wrote in his book, Bob Razon: A Life Devoted to the Salon Style, “Bob never was and never will be a ‘warts-and-all’ photographer.” Bob summed up his philosophy in an essay on his portraiture techniques. “Almost without fear of contradiction, I dare say that in a picture, all women should want to appear glamorous and younger, and all men would want to look handsome. Even if your subject has a face only a mother could love, never take away the illusion that your photograph will provide that dream. We are the only professionals in this world who can provide the fountain of youth to the aging, and without scalpel or knife remove the eternal curse of wrinkles, pockmarks, and blemishes.

Armando Goyena

Make up 5

Susan Magalona

Bob w- Model (lipstick)

Anita Linda

His obsession for perfection led Bob to experiment and perfect such techniques as airbrushing and cosmetic photography (as Photoshop was unheard of at that time). Not one to shun technology, however, Bob now employs photographers using digital cameras and computers, and to this day retains firm control of the custom photography business. The main studio in M. Adriatico Street in Malate is currently undergoing renovation, while the branch on Pasay Road in Makati continues to serve his clients.

In the early days of the studio a sign on the entrance door read: “Through these portals pass the world’s most beautiful women.” The result of these sittings not only assured the subjects of a perfect image—but also perhaps a place in history.

Bob's Logo copy

Arsenia Francisco

Conchita Gaston

Paraluman

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.52.39 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.52.49 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.53.18 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.53.33 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.53.57 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.54.17 AM

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.54.35 AM

The author wishes to thank Floy Quintos for using some of the materials from the book Bob Razon: A Life Devoted to the Salon Style and the archives of Bob’s Studios for lending the photographs featured in this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)