Leonti Planskoy

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Leonti Petrovitch Planskoy (c.1900–1986) was a Russian-born photographer, cinematographer and inventor active in France, the United Kingdom and the United States from the late 1920s to 1970s and was naturalised as a UK citizen in 1950.


Leonti Petrovitch Planskoy, alias Leonti Marcovitch Planskoy, also known as Lee or less commonly as Lonya, was of obscure origin, but played significant roles in cinema of the 1920s and 1930s and in photography in the 1950s.


Planskoy was an inventor of technologies relating to cinematography and photography and registered patents in France, UK and USA for production of composite motion pictures (1930);[1] for the production of composite images (1935);[2] photographic development to a predetermined value of contrast (1938)–in effect, an automated means of 'development by inspection';[3][4] and for the production of images which are geometrically equivalent, applicable to photography and to cinematography (1940) to aid in producing seamless special effects montage.[5]

He was an active innovator during the transition from silent to early sound film, and earliest mentions of him are listings as camera operator on Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927), and as first assistant director on Marcel L'Herbier’s Le diable au coeur (1928). A 1927 SMPE directory entry places him at "Riviera Studios, Harry Lachman Productions, Inc. St. Andre de Nice" (Saint-André-de-la-Roche), France[6] then in the 1929 issue of the same directory his address is given as c/o Q.R.S. Music Co., 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois,[7] then the following year shows him registered at Aleje Jerozolimskie 83, Warsaw, Poland.[8]

Variety magazine in 1929 notes his work on colour photography[9] and in another issue refers to his sound recording techniques.[10] Irving Thalberg negotiated with Planskoy to purchase his five way projection system as an improvement over the Dunning process.[11] Director Michael Powell, in his first volume of autobiography, A Life in Movies, relates that he met Planskoy in Nice as a technical expert, and how both worked there for the Irish-American filmmaker Rex Ingram; Planskoy having sent him a letter in early 1930 informing of a potential role in a production based on a play by T.W. Robertson called Caste. He notes that Jerome Jackson, the American lawyer and would-be producer of Caste at United Artists, London, had been sponsoring Planskoy’s “camera-trick experiments”, thus also referring to his montage invention for the production of composite images. Roy Pomeroy[12] is noted as working for RKO “alongside the innovative cameraman Leo Planskoy”, probably on Son of Kong (1933)[13] By 1945 Planskoy was an engineer at Blattnerphone.[14]


Planskoy moved from France to 45 Tavistock Court, in Bloomsbury, near Russell Square station, London and in 1950 became naturalised as a British citizen[15] He worked for a time as a photojournalist with Picture Post where staff photographer and camera mechanic, Carl Sutton (1923 - 1996) remembers him as “Doctor Leonti Planskoy” “who could speak nine languages”, was well-traveled, and who had “studied optics and colour in Germany, France and with Warner Brothers in Hollywood”.[16]

Photography exhibitions[edit]

During his time at Picture Post and before it folded in 1957, Planskoy produced pictures that were included by curator of photography Edward Steichen in Postwar European Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 26 May to 23 August 1953; the heartbreaking “At the death bed of a child, La Coruña” of 1951, and lively “Dancer, Rio de Janeiro” (1952), the latter described in the MoMA press release: “Tender, gentle dancing movements are contrasted with frenzied frantic dancing in a series of photographs of couples in South America by Leonti Planskoy who now lives in England and is being shown in this country for the first time.”

In 1955, in the exhibition The Family of Man, also curated by Steichen, Brazil is represented by three carnival images taken by Planskoy and the only one by a Brazilian photographer; the naturalized Pierre Verger, originally from France, is a photo of Bahia erroneously identified as being made in Peru. The exhibition was seen by 9 million visitors during its world tour.[17]

Leonsky was included in a third exhibition at MoMA; Photographs from the Museum Collection, shown 26 November 1958 to 18 January 1959. His photojournalism of the 1950s was commissioned by periodicals including Geographical Magazine,[18] the South African Drum, Photo-Monde,[19] Travel and Camera, Sciences et Voyages,[20] Camera, Chicago Review, The Photographic Journal amongst others.

Late career[edit]

In 1969 Planskoy, then working at Imperial College, presented at the AIC International Colo(u)r Association Color Meeting "Color 69" in Stockholm,[21] where he is listed as 'Dr Leonti Planosky', and in the 1970s was working on a method of evaluating process ink colours at the College in a research project also sponsored by a French E.R.A. member, Imprimerie Chaix-Desfosses-Néogravure.[22]

Planskoy died in London in 1986.


  1. ^ Grant US1959498A Planskoy Leonti A R L Metra Soc Priority 1930-07-10, Filing 1931-04-22, Grant 1934-05-22, Publication 1934-05-22
  2. ^ Grant US2130777A Planskoy Leonti Planskoy Leonti; Priority 1934-12-21; Filing 1935-12-20; Grant 1938-09-20; Publication 1938-09-20
  3. ^ ”Leonti Planskoy, Paris, Photographic development up to a certain y-values. Through two fields to be developed in the film two beams of light are sent during the development, the intensities of which were chosen before the illumination so that the difference between the logarithms of these intensities the difference between the  n. Dev is estimated to achieve equivalent blackening of the two fields . After passing through the film, the intensities of the beams are measured until they are equal. The light intensities are measured using a filter, a diaphragm or a polarization device." (E.P. 512,969 of 26/3/1938, issued 26/10/1939.) Chemisches Zentralblatt 1941. I. Semester No. 22 May 28
  4. ^ Grant US2296048A Planskoy Leonti Process Development Corp.; Priority 1938-03-26; Filing 1939-03-17; Grant 1942-09-15; Publication 1942-09-15
  5. ^ Grant US2204049A Planskoy Leonti; Priority 1936-07-15; Filing 1937-07-07; Grant 1940-06-11; Publication 1940-06-11
  6. ^ Listed in Transactions of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, Vol. XI, No. 32, 1927
  7. ^ "Transactions of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1929)”
  8. ^ S.M.P.E. Directory, May 1930
  9. ^ Foreign Film News: London Chatter. (1929). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 96(5), 2, 60.
  10. ^ Times Square: Chatter in New York. (1929). Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 96(11), 60.
  11. ^ Scully, F. (1931). Foreign Show News: European Runaround. Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 103(6), 54.
  12. ^ A later SMPE 'List of Members' shows him at 9 Rue Boissy d'Anglais, Paris, France, working for POMEROY, ROYJ. (M). Famous Plaere-Laak Studio, 1520 Vine St., Hollywood Calif.
  13. ^ Nataša Ďurovičová, “Local Ghosts: Dubbing Bodies in Early Sound Cinema”, in Anna Antonini, ed., Il film e i suoi multipli/Film and Its Multiples (Udine : Forum, 2003).
  14. ^ Scully, F. (1945). Miscellany: SCULLY'S SCRAPBOOK. Variety (Archive: 1905-2000), 158(7), 2.
  15. ^ Naturalisation Certificate: Leonti Petrovitch Planskoy. From Russia. Resident in London. Certificate BNA11059 issued 20 February 1950. Note(s): Alias: Leonti Marcovitch Planskoy, Date:1950 Feb 20, The National Archives, Kew
  16. ^ Johnson, G. (1978). FORGOTTEN MEN OF PICTURE POST? The British Journal of Photography (Archive : 1860-2005), 125(6158), 674-675.
  17. ^ Claudia Bucceroni Guerra 'Fotografias em museus e fotografias de museus: o caso do Museu de Arte Moderna de Nova York (MoMA) e as novas abordagens fotográficas' Proceedings of XIII Encontro Nacional de Pesquisa em Ciência da Informação - XIII ENANCIB 2012
  18. ^ for example Leonti Planskoy ‘Photogravure Supplement, Geographical Magazine, March 1956
  19. ^ Lucas Mendes Menezes (2017) Where are the pretas of Bahia and the morenas of Rio? The collection of Brazilian photographs of the Société Française de Photographie. Paper presented at In Black and White: Photography, Race, and the Modern Impulse in Brazil at Midcentury, New York, May 2017
  20. ^ a photoessay on nomads of Ireland in Sciences et Voyages, series 3, no.106, 1954. Paris
  21. ^ Proceedings of the International Color Meeting "Color 69", Stockholm 1969
  22. ^ Dr George Fuchs, Chief Ink Chemist, and ink factory manager. 'Ink: Our Lifeline Across the Road'. In Sunews #33, July 1973