ROBERT OSONITSCH: The Illustrator's Photographer
Illustration|Illustration No. 73
A few of the major illustrators during the time of Steve Holland’s reign as king of the paperback covers shot their own reference photos.
Michael Stradford

James Bama, Mort Künstler, and Jack Faragasso created magic on film before turning photos into illustrated art. But for the majority of illustrators, especially on the East Coast, there was only one ‘go-to’ guy who captured what was in their head on film. That was Robert Osonitsch.

Self-taught, born in Bushwick, New York, Osonitsch went to a trade school and was a member of the Society of Illustrators. He had a studio in a five-story building that he owned in Manhattan (at 112 4th Ave.) for more than 50 years. Within the building were two high ceiling studios on the fifth floor. Osonitsch shot in the back studio and rented out the front for illustrators who did their own photography, like James Bama and others. Filled with props, and constantly bustling with activity, Osonitsch shot Holland as a cowboy, a criminal, and many popular characters like Doc Savage and Fargo. A fire in 1981 destroyed all of his photos and negatives. He rebuilt the studio and reopened it again in 1982. He owned the building until he died.

Amy Sgouros, one of his seven children, remembers his studio constantly being busy with sessions back to back all day. Douglas, his youngest son, recalled that whenever he needed a child for a session, he’d just grab one of his kids. Osonitsch also shot the majority of cover photos of Fabio, along with countless other models and celebrities.

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