Sunday, August 15, 2010

Herman Leonard passes

Here's the Times-Picayune piece:

Herman Leonard, photographer of jazz greats, dies
Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010, 10:27 AM
Dennis Persica, The Times-Picayune

Herman Leonard, a photographer who created some of the most famous images of
Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and other jazz greats, died
Friday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Mr. Leonard, 87, lived in
New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina struck and destroyed much of his

Mr. Leonard was best known for his smoky, backlit portraits of jazz artists
in New York, Paris and London, many of which graced the covers of numerous
jazz albums. He was born and raised in Allentown, Pa. When he was 9, he
became enthralled with photography when he saw an image being developed in
his brother's darkroom.

He attended Ohio University in Athens, which offered a degree in
photography. He left college to serve with the Army from 1943 to 1945,
serving with the 13th Mountain Medical Battalion as an anesthetist. He
returned to college after the war and graduated in 1947.

Mr. Leonard apprenticed under the master portrait photographer, Yousuf
Karsh. After a year, Karsh encouraged Leonard to break out on his own.

In 1948, he moved to New York and became involved with the jazz scene there,
making agreements with club owners to photograph rehearsals in exchange for
photographs for their marquees. Mr. Leonard said his aim was "to create a
visual diary of what I heard, to make people see the way the music sounded."

Quincy Jones, the musician and composer, once said that Mr. Leonard's images
"are documents of historic significance, cataloguing the development of one
of the greatest art forms in American history..."

"When people think of Jazz, their mental picture is likely one of Herman's."

Subjects of Mr. Leonard's photographs include Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett,
Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1980, Mr. Leonard moved to the island of Ibiza, where he remained until
1987. In 1985 he released his first book, "The Eye of Jazz." In 1988, the
first exhibition of Leonard's jazz photographs was held in London. His first
U.S. show premiered the next year.

Mr. Leonard moved to New Orleans in 1992, immersing himself in the city's
jazz scene. He released his second book, "Jazz Memories," in 1995.

Mr. Leonard's home and studio were damaged in Hurricane Katrina and his
archive of over 8,000 prints were lost in the flood. Fortunately, his
negatives had been housed at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and escaped

Mr. Leonard moved to Los Angeles and rebuilt his life and business there.

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