Herman Leonard Signing
Sunday December 14, 2008 - 4pm
You may not know Herman Leonard's name, but you know his photographs. You know them intimately. Close your eyes, think of Jazz, and thank him.
With a camera as his backstage pass, Herman Leonard photographed the giants of jazz in their golden age, movie stars on set and on their travels to exotic places, the fashion world of Paris in the 1960s, and the inner sanctums of his beloved New Orleans.
His friendships with the jazz greats allowed him to vividly capture the magical moments of the Harlem and Paris jazz clubs in the 1940s and 50s, using his unique command of cinematic lighting to capture the essence of the time.
To Leonard, Dizzy Gillespie was a "monument to jazz . . . a pure soul." In Dizzy Gillespie, Royal Roost, NYC, 1948, Leonard aimed his camera diagonally, catching Gillespie in profile as he played his trumpet below an undulating, metallic ceiling.
"...I just loved the jazz and I would go to the clubs where I could see them." - Herman Leonard.
In the photograph Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman Downbeat Club, NYC, 1949, the great lady of jazz sings to her adoring fans a few feet away. All look enchanted, but Duke Ellington, clasping his hands to his chin, is clearly the most enraptured.
His colourful life and travels enabled him to document the lives of the cultural icons of his day, with such rare images as Marilyn Monroe on an elephant in the circus and Albert Einstein at his desk.
He was also famous for photographing Miles Davis -- a man not so easy to work with. His shots of Miles span decades. When asked what were his most difficult photographs to take, he doesn't mention dark clubs, crowds to work around, camera settings or egos. He talks about photographing Miles, when Miles was dying. When you could see it in his eyes.
It's the humanity of Herman Leonard that shines through -- and that is what he captures in his art: the humanity of these giants, these legends.
Hurricane Katrina sent flood waters into Herman Leonard's home just like so many other families around him on the Gulf Coast. His studio and darkroom were submerged. HIs negatives were saved by the hustle of a small group of people who managed to get most of them into a museum vault. But his prints, those historic and painstakingly developed prints, were lost. Looking around him, he didn't feel sorry for himself. He simply said that it gave him motivation to get back into the darkroom.
Jazz, Giants, and Journeys is the first full treatment of this extraordinary life and distinctive body of work, giving Leonard's photographs the artistic recognition that they deserve.
Join Amoeba as we welcome Mr. Leonard for a day of music, stories, images and JAZZ!
Jazz, Giants, and Journeys: The Photography of Herman Leonard will be available for purchase and signing at the in-store.
Amoeba’s Jazz room will feature a live JAZZ DJ along with a delectable assortment of musical treasures, including jazz imports, rare, out-of-print titles, MOSAIC box sets, vinyl, Blue Note t-shirts and more... See you there!