Born in Pennsylvania in 1923, Herman Leonard was nine years old when he witnessed
an image being developed in his brother's darkroom and became enthralled with
the magic of photography. After earning a BFA in photography at Ohio University,
he moved to Ottawa, where he became an apprentice of the master portrait photographer
Yousuf Karsh. Leonard assisted Karsh in the darkroom and during sittings with some
of the era's most celebrated figures such as Albert Einstein and Clark Gable.
In 1949, Leonard's passion for jazz brought him to New York City's Greenwich
Village. With the camera as his free ticket, he photographed and developed friendships
with some of the greats of jazz history, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie,
Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and many more. After a stint as Marlon Brando's
personal photographer, he headed to Paris and continued to photograph the prolific
jazz scene while working in fashion and advertising, and serving as the European
photographer for Playboy magazine. In the 1980s, he moved to the island
of Ibiza, where he rediscovered his jazz negatives and published his first book.
Herman Leonard moved to New Orleans in the early 1990s. He immersed himself in the
city's lively jazz scene and exhibited his work around the world in numerous
solo shows. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Herman's home and studio,
and many of his photographs. Following Hurricane Katrina, Leonard moved to California
and re-established his life and business there.
Since mounting his first exhibition in London in 1988, Herman Leonard has presented
his work around the world. His photographs now belong to prestigious museum collections,
public and private. The historical importance and excellence of his work have brought
him a number of awards and distinctions, including the Milt Hinton Award for Excellence
in Jazz Photography from the Jazz Photographer's Association in 1999, and the
Excellence in Photography Award from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2000.
In June 2010, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal honoured the great
photographer awarding him the Bruce Lundvall Award presented annually to a non-musician
who has left a mark on the world of jazz or contributed to the development of the
music, through the media, the concert or record industries.
Herman Leonard died August 14, 2010 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. He
Website of Herman Leonard : www.hermanleonard.com
Dizzy Gillespie NYC New York 1948
© Herman Leonard Photography, LLC