The iconography of jazz, with its dark rooms and cigarette smoke clouds, would not be the same without jazz photography. And jazz photography would not be the same without William P. Gottlieb, who documented the jazz scene in New York and Washington, D.C., from from 1938 to 1948.His book The Golden Age of Jazz collects 219 of the primarily black-and-white photographs he took during that decade, but there are so many more. The Library of Congress has just released all 1,600 of them for public consumption on Flickr, and what a treat they are.
We’ve chosen 15 of our favourites—a hard task—but recommend you scroll through the Flickr page to get a sense of them yourself. You can also find interviews with Gottlieb about his work on The Library of Congress website.
Gottlieb’s photographs, like the paintings of Caravaggio, vividly capture the dramatic darks and lights of their environment.
Geoff Dyer, author of the jazz book But Beautiful, wrote: “The best jazz photographs are those saturated in the sound of their subject.” If that is true, then Gottlieb, who died in 2006 at the age of 89, took some of the best jazz photographs there are.
Sidney Bechet, Freddie Moore, and Lloyd Phillips, Jimmy Ryan's (Club), New York, N.Y., ca. June 1947
Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Cecil Payne, Ray Brown, and Miles Davis, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948
Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt (Milton) Jackson, and Timmie Rosenkrantz, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.