Press Release - For Immediate Release
Contact: Rebecca Beltrán, October 27, 2006
November 30, 2006 through January 13, 2007
Reception for the Artist Thursday, November 30, 7-9 pm
The Fahey/Klein Gallery is pleased to present Jazz Giants, the mural-sized photographs by
Herman Leonard. This exhibition is a photographic journey through the golden years of the Jazz,
Blues and Bebop eras that documents the larger-than-life legends that comprise the visual
album of America's music. Focusing on the life and times of famed artists such as Billie
Holiday, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk among countless others, this exhibition features
a selection from Leonard's extensive photographic history.
Despite the devastating loss of his New Orleans home, studio, and darkroom in the wake of the
2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, Leonard's definitive archive, as well as his spirit, remain
strong. Though over 6,000 of Leonard's original photographs along with many of his exposure
records were lost in the hurricane, Leonard, at the age of 83, continues to shoot, develop
and exhibit his comprehensive archive. Timeless and true, Herman Leonard's photographs
continue to serve as the iconic portals into Jazz's rich culture.
Using a unique lighting approach, Leonard's signature "backlighting" style gives his portraits
a dramatic quality that is highly humanistic, capturing the illuminating personalities behind
the music. Regarding his technique Leonard has said, "I wanted to do with light what artists
do with a line sketch, show the whole character" (Departures, 2006). Using elements such as
smoke and strobe lighting, Leonard undoubtedly presents his subjects in a softer ambiance,
allowing each personality to shine beyond his/her stage personality. Leonard's rare ability
to connect with his subjects-from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis-made him a much-loved and
welcomed figure among Jazz's musicians, giving Leonard the permission to pervade and
interpersonally document the Jazz scene from the 1940s through today.
"The musicians appreciated his discretion, his respect for their work, and it is from
their complicity-an unchanging aspect of his style-that his images derive their originality.
These unprecedented documents radiate the musicians' humour and philosophy, but also their
emotions, melancholy or delight. It would be tempting to say that Herman is revealing the
soul of the jazzmen to us" (Francis Paudras, Jazz Memories).
Herman Leonard was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1923. Discovering the camera at the age
of 11, Leonard began his career by photographing friends in school. As a teenager, Leonard
discovered that the camera could grant him access into many concert venues. Leonard attended
Ohio University to pursue a bachelor's degree in photography--a relatively new course of study
in the 1940s. In 1943, World War II interrupted his studies and Leonard joined the Army Medical
Corps in Burma, but continued his affair with the camera, developing film late at night in his
After the war, Leonard continued his coursework and graduated in 1947. Undergoing a series of
projects throughout his early years, Herman Leonard studied under Canadian portraiture
photographer Yousuf Karsh for a year which granted Leonard the invaluable opportunity to
photograph the likes of Albert Einstein, Harry S. Truman and Clark Gable among others. In the
1950s, Leonard became the personal photographer to Marlon Brando and later moved to Paris
where he worked fashion and advertising jobs for magazines such as Playboy, Life, and Time.
Most recently, Herman Leonard was honored by the Smithsonian Institution by housing his entire
collection in the permanent archives of musical history.