Lusha Nelson was a Latvian-born photographer who began his career in the 1920s and quickly rose to prominence as a staff photographer for Condé Nast publications. He was mentored by noted photographers Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz and went on to shoot for high-profile publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue. Nelson had a diverse portfolio, including photographs of Hollywood actors, sports stars, and other notable figures of the time. However, despite his early success and promise, Nelson’s career was cut short when he died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1930 at the young age of 30.
After his death, Nelson’s work remained mostly unseen and unknown, with much of it remaining in private collections. However, in 2015 the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, acquired an extensive collection of his prints, negatives, and archive materials, leading to his first retrospective. Despite his early death and relative obscurity, the curators of the retrospective have noted that Nelson’s work is significant for its modernist style and its document of the cultural and social milieu of the 1920s and 1930s. The photographer has been referred as a “Forgotten Modernist” by Vanity Fair.