The History of Jazz Photography....carrying on the tradition
I am so thankful for Benjamin Cawthra’s book Blue Notes in Black and White: Photography and Jazz because this book helps me see the history of what I do. I am a photographer who has a rich and deep connection to jazz. Jazz was the music that I feel in love with as a kid in the 1960s. As a baby my father would sit me beside the speakers of his record player and let the smooth sounds of Wes Montgomery quiet a crying child. I was that child and Wes Montgomery was my comforter.
I find myself in my mid-fifties and I am still in love with jazz. As a photographer jazz is one of my main subjects and Cawthra’s book has helped me wrap my mind and eyes around the history of jazz photography. While I knew of the artist he writes about, both musicians and photographers, I needed his work to help me put the big picture together. The book gives you a timeline and way to walk thought the history of jazz and jazz photography in context. The color and context of jazz comes to life in this work.
This book also helped me see what is next. I am not just collecting images of jazz artists but rather I am creating a visual story that speaks to the past, present and future of jazz in historical context. My images are a part of this great legacy and I must treat this work as a child of those who have come before me. The great photographers whose work Cawthra’s helps me see is so important to be familiar with. As a modern artist I am not creating new work but rather I am creating work that is connected to the past.
Artist must know their history because in knowing your history you see how you and your work are connected. Your work is what is next but it can’t be separated from what came before. As we look back at our artistic history it informs our work and we begin to see and shoot in relationship to our ancestors and elders. Cawthra’s book brings those great artist from the past to life. This is a life giving book and I thank God for the life it gave me. What is that story that you are a part of? What came before you and your work that you need to consult in order to create?