He was born in New York, New York, in 1886, and attended Columbia University, graduating with a B.A. in 1912. He studied photography with Clarence H. White, a faculty member at Columbia. His first successes came selling photographs to magazines including Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar. (However, he was quick to insist that he was not doing fashion photography.)
In 1919, he moved to Los Angeles and signed on with Cecil B. DeMille as a cameraman and subsequently worked on many films. He was later also admitted to the American Society of Cinematographers.
In 1949, he began his work in “stereo cinematography”, becoming one of the first proponents of that art form. Unfortunately, he did most of his 3D work in Italy and none of his films were subsequently released in 3D in the United States.
In his career, Struss was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography four times. The first time, and the only time he won, was for F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans in 1929, sharing that award with Charles Rosher. He was nominated again in 1932 for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in 1934 for The Sign of the Cross, and in 1942 for Aloma of the South Seaswith Wilfred M. Cline, A.S.C. and William E. Snyder, A.S.C.