Wait, the Columbia Pictures logo was made during a lunch break?

Photographs taken for the Columbia Pictures logo
(Image credit: Kathy Anderson)

It's one of the most famous logos in film, having opened hundreds of movies. But have you ever wondered, who is the woman in the Columbia Pictures logo? It turns out the woman who posed for the image isn't a model or actress. The face of one of the world's biggest film companies was a graphic designer on her lunch break.

In a post on Instagram, the photographer Kathy Anderson revealed some of the story of how she shot the reference images for the current version of the Columbia Pictures logo, which remains in use after more than 25 years despite perhaps breaking some of the usual rules to how to design a logo with its relatively complex, lifelike details.

The Columbia Pictures logo has been through several iterations. In the early 1920s, it featured a woman in Roman soldier dress, but it was soon updated to depict Columbia, a female personification of the United States named after Colombus and strongly influenced by Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Liberty as depicted in New York's Statue of Liberty.

Several women are said to have modelled for or influenced the appearance of the flag-draped torch-bearing woman over the decades, including the actresses Evelyn Venable and Jane Bartholomew. But in the early 1990s, Columbia turned to the New Orleans-based artist Michael Deas, famous for his Marilyn Monroe stamp, to update the illustration. And he recruited Anderson, a long-time collaborator, to provide reference photos.

At the time, the Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer was working for local newspaper The Times-Picayune. Needing a model for the shoot, she roped in Jenny Joseph, a 28-year-old graphic designer who also worked on the paper. Joseph had never modelled professionally before (and hasn't since), and she posed for the pictures during a lunch break at the newspaper.

Anderson told Yahoo Entertainment that she converted the living room of her apartment into a studio and set up a mottled grey backdrop and a large softbox. A couple of well-positioned boxes on the floor let the fabric of the sheet that Joseph wore drape how she wanted it.

Anderson put a Polaroid back on her Hasselblad camera to take some test shots while Deas brought in a “box of warm croissants from his favorite French Quarter baker” along with props, including a "small lamp with a light bulb sticking out of the top" that "vaguely resembled a torch". At one point, Joseph felt faint and she revealed that she had just discovered she was pregnant.

Photographs taken for the Columbia Pictures logo

Jenny Joseph as Columbia on the shoot for the logo (Image credit: Kathy Anderson)

Everyone involved has expressed surprise that the resulting image made it to the big screen – and remains in use more than 25 years after it was created back in 1993. “I was amazed when I first saw the logo appear in a movie theater,” Anderson said. “Seeing the image come to life on the big screen seemed surreal. After a while, the image took on a life of its own, which completely surprised me. Decades after its creation, people are still fascinated with the image.”

See our pick of the best logos of all time for more design inspiration. And if you're thinking of setting up a home photo studio, see our pick of the best cameras or check out the best current prices below.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.