Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I just found out about the Legendary Photographer William Gottlieb passing...

William Gottlieb, whose iconic photos of jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong helped to define the image of jazz to music fans worldwide, died Sunday, April 23, at his home in Great Neck, N.Y., of a stroke. He was 89.
Gottlieb first used a camera in 1939 to illustrate his weekly jazz column ?Swing Sessions" in the Washington Post. He was paid for the writing, not the photography, and since the film, flash bulbs, and cameras (Speed Graphics and Rolleis) were bulky and expensive, he typically made only three or four exposures a session. He learned to shoot very carefully.

The photography paid off. It enhanced his column, later helped him become an Air Force photo officer in WWII, then clinched a job on DownBeat, where many of his images of the likes of Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie were first published. While at DownBeat, Gottlieb was an exceptional ?man on the street? reporter, letting the artists tell their stories through his articles such as his ?Posin?? column (after which today?s ?The Question? column in DownBeat is modeled).

Gottlieb left the jazz scene in 1948 to produce educational filmstrips, eventually as president of University Films/McGraw-Hill. He also wrote and illustrated 16 books, mostly for children. One of his Golden Books, ?Laddie The Superdog? sold more than 1 million copies.

Upon retiring from McGraw-Hill in 1979, Bill published his old jazz photos as The Golden Age of Jazz. The New York Times predicted that Gottlieb ?seems to be entering the golden age of William P. Gottlieb.?

His jazz images have since appeared on more than 350 record album and CD covers, on two dozen posters, and a like number of postcards and T-shirts. They have been in hundreds of books, magazines, calendars, TV documentaries, and even in major motion pictures as background atmosphere or used to re-create a historic site.

Meanwhile, exhibitions of the prints have appeared in more than 160 venues, from the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm to the Navio Museum in Osaka, Japan.

Some of Gottlieb?s photos, starting with Duke Ellington, were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery: and his images are the basis of four US Postage Stamps. In 1998, DownBeat presented Gottlieb with our annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1995, the Library of Congress, using funds from the Ira & Leonore S. Gershwin Fund, purchased all 1,600-plus of Gottlieb's jazz images ?for posterity.?

To view Gottlieb?s collection on the Library of Congress web site, go to:

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