Photographer Spotlight: George Mann

Photographer Spotlight: George Mann

George Mann was a vaudeville headliner in the late '20s through the early '40s. Together with his partner Dewy Barto, they formed the comedy dance team of Barto & Mann. The disparity in height between Barto (4'11" or 150cm) and Mann (6'6" or 198cm), along with their outrageous costumes made them a hilarious duo and an instant success in the vaudeville circuit. By 1930, Barto and Mann had become the highest salaried dancing team in show business and were even making headlines abroad. After their performance at the Scala Theatre in Berlin, August 1931, the act was praised on the cover of a German magazine as one of the very best comedy teams in existence.

Following the Great Depression, a shift came over the world of entertainment. Film and radio slowly began to steal the show from vaudeville, marking the end of its heyday. As vaudeville wound down in the 1930s, Barto and Mann joined Olsen and Johnson’s hit Broadway show “Hellzapoppin”, in which they performed until 1942. “Hellzapoppin” was a huge success with audiences in New York and the cabaret-style show saw the comeback of vaudeville as a popular source of entertainment, this time as a welcome distraction from the hardships and horrors of World War II. 

George was also a gifted photographer who captured the world he knew, bringing an insider's sensitivity and access to his stunning images. Throughout his many years in show business, George Mann was never without camera. His extraordinarily intimate and perceptive backstage shots bring to life a long-gone era of variety shows and no-nonsense entertainment. His portraits of people and places are spontaneous, yet stunning in their use of light.

Touring with his comedy dance act “Barto and Mann”, prolonged time with family and friends must have been rare and, like his photography, provided an anchor in his nomadic life. His choice of subjects shows a fascination with the everyday delights of those leading more conventional lives.

In this evocative and very personal collection of black and white images from the 1930s, we watch children running through water sprinklers, women chatting on the back porch and men gathering around a car. We see portraits of farmers and hunters and a cotton picker on the side of the road. We feel the laughter, the heat and the breeze off the lake.

Some 1,000 images have been hand-picked from the George Mann Archive by Mann's daughter-in-law, commercial photographer Dianne Woods, and made available worldwide through akg-images.

Rehearsal with showgirls and cockatiels at the Paradise Cabaret Restaurant, 49th Street and Broadway, New York –1936. Barto & Mann were also on the bill.<br/>AKG1013905
Paramount Theater Marquee, Rube Wolf Orchestra on the bill, Los Angeles, 1933<br/>AKG1013794
Paradise Cabaret revue dancers standing under “employees only” sign. Barto and Mann were also on the bill.<br/><br/>Photo, New York, 1937.<br/><br/>AKG1013734
Man (George Mann) sitting in a restaurant in Paris, France.<br/>Photo, 1931<br/>AKG1046031
Barbara Bradford Mann in front of a sign reading ‘Ice Cream – Extra Rich 10 cents’, sipping cola out of a bottle. <br/>AKG1013826
Rehearsal with showgirls at the Paradise Cabaret Restaurant, 49th Street and Broadway, New York –1936. Barto & Mann were also on the bill.<br/>AKG1013915
A group of men standing in front of and sitting in a convertible car drinking beer, New York.<br/>Photo, 1928<br/>AKG1046022
Young fashionable couple standing by a car.<br/>Photo, 1927.<br/>AKG1046029
Young couple relaxing after Thanksgiving dinner (George Mann and Barbara Bradford Mann).<br/>Photo, New York, 1938<br/>AKG1013862
Man (George Mann) pretending to be contortionist at the seaside. Photo, 1931.<br/>AKG1046044
Young Blond Woman Sunbathing and Smoking on New York Rooftop. Photo 1937<br/>AKG1013799
Two little boys (brothers / twins) sitting on the front steps of a house, reading "Christopher Duck" by Eleanora Madsen<br/>together.<br/>Photo, 1938.<br/>AKG1035920
Two sisters running through garden sprinklers, New York.<br/>Photo, 1939.<br/>AKG1045961
Three generations of women sitting on the back porch, talking (young blond woman in the centre is Barbara Bradford Mann).<br/>Photo, 1940.<br/>AKG1013671