Jazz photographer Herman Leonard dead at 87

August 17, 2010 12:00 am

, LOS ANGELES, Aug 17 – American photographer Herman Leonard, whose smoky black-and-white pictures immortalized jazz stars between the 1940s and 1960s, died this weekend aged 87, his spokesman said in a statement.

Born in 1923 in the US state of Pennsylvania to Romanian parents, Leonard obtained a degree in photography shortly after World War Two, and opened his first photography studio in New York in 1948.

It was then that he began to frequent jazz clubs, becoming fascinated by the musicians that passed through. He arranged deals with the clubs allowing him to photograph icons of the genre, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday, Duke Ellington and Miles Davies, who he captured in evocative black-and-white portraits.

In 1956, Marlon Brando selected Leonard as his personal photographer for a research trip to the Far East. After the trip, Leonard relocated to Paris, where he remained an avid photographer of jazz musicians in the city\’s vibrant music scene.

In 1980, he left Paris for Ibiza, where he spent seven years and prepared for the publication of his first book. By 1988, he was living in London, where his first exhibition was held.

In the early 1990s, he relocated to New Orleans, rekindling his passion for the US music scene, but the move ended in tragedy when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, destroying much of his house, studio and some 8,000 archive prints.

Fortunately, negatives were safely stored in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Leonard was able to relocate to Los Angeles where, with a grant from the Grammy Foundation, he digitized and catalogued some 60,000 of his jazz negatives.

He died August 14, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.




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