Born in Oila, Italy, into a family of sculptors, Ralph Oggiano came to New York at age seventeen in 1920. He supported himself for a time doing nudes for the "Art Magazines" while training with M. I. Boris in the art of portraiture. Lacking the capital to set up his own studio, he formed a partnership with portraitist Herbert Mitchell, another photographer who took Boris's work as a point of departure for his style. The partnership lasted until 1934 during which time Oggiano established a secure place among the city's professional photographers.
After going their separate ways, Mitchell devoted himself to black & white portraits of theatrical personalities, while Oggiano became a diversified portraitist, known particularly for his color photography. Oggiano was impatient with the business end of photography and after a year's independence from Mitchell, entered into another partnership, forming the Oggiano-Ida Studio located on Third Ave. His New York colleagues elected him president of the Professional Photographers Assocation. He eventually dissolved his second partnership.
In 1940 a large retrospective exhibition of his portraits of actresses and female celebrities, 344 portraits in all, was hung at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel Art Gallery. A smaller exhibition of dancer portraits appeared in the Kamin Gallery that same year. 1940 closed with a small showing of portraits of New York's drama critics at the Algonquin Hotel. After World War II, Oggiano changed the location of his studio to W. 57th St. and opened his doors to students for private instruction. He died, aged 59, on April 17, 1962. David S. Shields/ALS
Oggiano was a master of color process printing and the first to use it extensively in portraiture on Broadway. He specialized in waist-up portraits and bust format shots and favored lighting which gave a gradient of shade in the background.