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About Photographer Spartan of Hollywood

The photographer known as SPARTAN OF HOLLYWOOD was born Constantine Hassalevris in 1913 in the Bronx, NY. His parents were Greek immigrants.

He trained for a career in ballet under dance master Vincenzo Celli, once teacher to Agnes de Mille, Alicia Markova, and Jerome Robbins. As a young man, Constantine worked steadily as a dancer in the corps de ballet of various companies.

An auto accident in Colorado brought his dance career to an abrupt halt. While convalescing, a friend gave him a box camera – “an inspired choice,” he later wrote – and he began to take pictures.

His earliest published photographs, signed simply “Constantine,” were publicity shots for concert programs and newspapers. His beautiful portraits and performance photographs led to his assignment in 1942 as staff photographer for Dance magazine.

After moving to the California, Constantine continued photographing and writing for Dance. He also started to shoot physique photographs under the direction of Fred Kovert, who took him on as one of the many photographers of “Kovert of Hollywood.”

“My taste is to photograph the male body in a studio where spotlights, props and complete control over the sources of light are at my command.”

-- Grecian Guild Studio Quarterly #5

By January 1947, Constantine transformed into “Spartan of Hollywood.” With soft lighting, simple compositions, and a sense of artistry derived from his background in ballet, he developed an easily recognizable style. Spartan became one of the great physique photographers of the era.

His elegant photographs were published in the leading physique and muscle magazines including Strength and Health and Grecian Guild Pictorial in the U.S. and Male Classics and Popular Man in the U.K.

His prints, on heavyweight textured paper, have a warm velvety finish that somehow draws the viewer into the photo. At their best, they exude a kind of sensuality and glamour rarely seen in the work of other physique photographers.

“… the inventive lensman can, through a combination of inspired lighting and posing, create a study in which the face, torso, arms, legs and hands have definite pictorial significance.”

-- Grecian Guild Studio Quarterly #5

Perhaps Constantine was influenced by Hollywood’s most famous portrait photographer, George Hurrell. Not such a stretch if you consider that some of his models were also film actors.

Constantine Hassalevris died in 1982 and is buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

-- Thanks to Reed Massengill for providing biographical material.