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Unsung Heroes of Cinema: Jenny Joseph (the Columbia Pictures Logo Woman aka "Columbia")

If you saw my Doug Jones post last week you’ll know that I introduced a new feature called Unsung Heroes of Cinema.

Over the coming weeks I hope to shine a spotlight on a few people who, despite making substantial contributions to this movie world we love so much, rarely get the recognition they deserve.

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the “Torch Lady” animation from the Columbia Pictures logo at the start of countless films since 1993.

For all the hundreds of times we’ve seen that logo (specifically the torch lady), I wonder how many of us have ever wondered who she actually is?

Her name is Jenny Joseph.

In 1991, Jenny, then 28 and very recently pregnant was working as a page designer for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Her co-worker, a photographer called Kathy Anderson had been asked by her friend, painter and illustrator Michael Deas to take reference photos for a new matte painting he’d been commissioned to create by Columbia Pictures for their new logo.

On a whim Deas asked Jenny if she’d model for him. She agreed and the three of them headed over to Kathy’s apartment which they quickly converted into a studio. They draped bed sheets over Jenny, gave her a table lamp to hold in the air and Kathy took these photos of her while she was on her lunch break.

Deas then used the reference images to digitally paint the new logo which was later turned into a 3D animation by Synthespian Studios.

Jenny is now a Houston muralist and mother of two.

Sadly she received “very little” money for her role in such a big part of cinematic history but she doesn’t seem to mind. In a 2004 interview she said, “When I go to the movies, I get my 15 minutes of fame, the kids get a kick out of it.”

The Columbia Pictures logo has gone through a few changes since its first appearance in 1924.

The torch lady (officially named “Columbia”) was apparently inspired by the Statue of Liberty. The very first incarnation of her was quite different to the one we see now and featured a female roman soldier holding a shield in her left hand and a stick of wheat in her right hand.

So now you know. Next time you watch a post-1993 Columbia Pictures movie, spare a thought for that unassuming graphic designer who posed for the iconic logo on her lunch break 30 years ago.

Jenny Joseph, we salute you!

This video shows every single logo used, from the very first to the most current.

And here's a video with a short interview featuring the lady herself.

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