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Photographer’s Eye: The Lost History of the Clifton’s Cafeteria Camera Girls (Central Library)

February 19 @ 12:15 pm - 1:00 pm

At a time when most folks didn’t own their own cameras (and selfies did not yet exist), getting your Souvenir photo taken at a popular tourist destination was all the rage. During the height of Clifton’s Cafeteria’s popularity from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, a professional photo studio named “Keepsake Photography” set up shop in their basement to offer these much needed services. The story of their lost photo studio and its staff photographers (better known as Camera Girls), were unearthed in a long forgotten dusty drawer by Miriam Caldwell, the daughter of one of the Camera Girls. There, Miriam discovered her mother Vilma’s hand-written diaries, never before seen Clifton’s Cafeteria photographs and her collection of photo studio ephemera.

The charming world of the Clifton’s Cafeteria Camera Girls and its in-house Photo Studio come to life with Vilma’s bold and sassy account of life when she worked and played in old Los Angeles. Step back in time as Miriam brings to light one of the most unique stories on the history of Clifton’s Cafeteria, and about one camera girl who blazed her own path to become the “Star of YOUR Souvenir photo”!

Miriam Caldwell writes a blog called the “Diary of Vilma.” The blog was created as a  chronological journey of her mother’s secret diaries that were penned in the 1950’s when Vilma worked as a staff photographer at one of the world’s most prominent tourist destinations in Los Angeles: Clifton’s Cafeteria.  Miriam has given multiple vintage slideshow presentations to rave reviews over the last several years, including at the historic Los Angeles Breakfast Club, San Fernando Historical Society, and most recently at her sold-out show with Tiki Oasis in 2019. She can also be seen as a special guest speaker on Esotouric’s Secret Los Angeles bus tours and the “Clifton’s Curiosities & Cocktail Crawl” currently being offered as an “Air B & B Experience” in conjunction with Atlas Obscura at Clifton’s Republic.  She is also working on her first book in the “Diary of Vilma” series.

Sponsored by Photo Friends. Presented by the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Seating is first come, first serve. Doors open approximately 15 minutes before the start of the program. 


Los Angeles Central Library, Meeting Room A
630 W 5th St
Los Angeles , CA 90071 United States
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