John Kobal

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John Kobal (born Ivan Kobaly, 30 May 1940 – 28 October 1991)[1] was an Austrian-born British based film historian responsible for The Kobal Collection, a commercial photograph library related to the film industry.


Kobal was born in Linz, Austria, but the family emigrated to Canada when Kobal was ten[1] and settled in Ottawa.[2]

Kobal had a short-lived career as an actor in early 1960s London. He was an inveterate collector: magazines, postcards, pictures, any movie memorabilia. It was a chance encounter with Marlene Dietrich in Canada in the 1950s that led Kobal to develop his affection for the Golden Age of Hollywood. He used his contacts from a BBC appointment in New York from 1964 to acquire Hollywood related photographs,[2] eventually numbering about 4,500 images dating from the end of the silent era to about 1960.[3] The material was then considered of little value and regularly dumped.

The author of 30 books, Kobal was responsible for organising the first exhibition of Hollywood related photographs at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1974.[4] The critic John Russell Taylor has described Kobal's contribution to film studies as "unique".[1] A gay man, Kobal died aged 51 of AIDS-related pneumonia in London.[5]

The John Kobal Foundation[edit]

The John Kobal Foundation, to which he donated his collection, was established as a registered charity at the end of 1992[6] and presented an annual award in Portrait Photography between 1993 and 2002.[7]

The collection is split between the London and New York offices of The Picture Desk and now consists of more than 200,000 images. The Collection also continues the exhibition work begun by John Kobal, mounting several exhibitions commissioned by the International Festival du Film, Cannes, and prestigious department stores in Japan.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Kobal's biography page Archived 2009-06-16 at the Wayback Machine., John Kobal Foundation. This page contains an extensive Bibliography of Kobal's books.
  2. ^ a b Charles Hagen "John Kobal, 51; Compiled Collection Of Hollywood Lore", New York Times, 30 October 1991
  3. ^ Brett Johnson "Here's how a star-struck fan saved Hollywood history from the trash heap", Ventura County Star, 7 August 2008
  4. ^ Scarlet Cheng "The lost art of glamour", Los Angeles Times, 25 August 2008
  5. ^ "AIDS 1991", Entertainment Weekly website
  6. ^ "The John Kobal Foundation photographic portrait award: A photographic portrait prize in memory of John Kobal", The Independent on Sunday, 7 February 1993
  7. ^ John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award 1993-2002 Archived 2009-06-16 at the Wayback Machine., John Kobal Foundation page
  8. ^

External links[edit]