Herman Leonard

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Herman Leonard
Born(1923-03-06)March 6, 1923
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Died August 14, 2010(2010-08-14) (aged 87)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Citizenship U.S.
Alma mater Ohio University
Occupation Photographer
Years active 1947-2010
Known for Jazz musician portraiture
Spouse(s) Elisabeth
Children Shana and David
Parent(s) Joseph Leonard and Rose Morrison
Awards 1995, Honorary Master of Science in Photography, Brooks Institute of Photography
1999, Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography, Jazz Photographer’s Association
2000, Excellence in Photography Award, Jazz Journalists Association
2004, Lifetime Achievement Award, Downbeat Magazine
2008, Lucie Award for Achievement in Portraiture [1]
Website hermanleonard.com

Herman Leonard (March 6, 1923, in Allentown, Pennsylvania [2]  – August 14, 2010, in Los Angeles, California) was an American photographer known for his unique images of jazz icons.

Allentown, Pennsylvania Home Rule Municipality in Pennsylvania, United States

Allentown is a city located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is Pennsylvania's third most populous city and the 231st largest city in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 118,032 and is currently the fastest growing city in all of Pennsylvania. It is the largest city in the metropolitan area known as the Lehigh Valley, which had a population of 821,623 residents as of 2010. Allentown constitutes a portion of the New York City Combined Statistical Area and is the county seat of Lehigh County. In 2012, the city celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding in 1762.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".



Leonard's parents, Joseph Leonard and Rose Morrison, were Romanian Jewish immigrants who emigrated from Iaşi to the United States. [3] [4]

Leonard gained a BFA degree in photography in 1947 from Ohio University, although his college career was interrupted by a tour of duty in the U.S. Army during World War II. In the military he served as a medical technician in Burma, while attached to Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese troops fighting the Japanese.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts is the standard undergraduate degree for students in the United States and Canada seeking a professional education in the visual or performing arts.

Ohio University public university in Athens, Ohio, United States

Ohio University is a public research university in Athens, Ohio. The first university chartered by an Act of Congress and the first to be chartered in Ohio, it was chartered in 1787 by the Congress of the Confederation and subsequently approved for the territory in 1802 and state in 1804, opening for students in 1809. Ohio University is the oldest university in Ohio, the eighth oldest public university in the United States and the 30th oldest university among public's and privates. As of fall 2018, the university's total enrollment at Athens was 20,000, while the all- campus enrollment was just under 35,000.

Chiang Kai-shek Chinese politician and military leader

Chiang Kai-shek, also known as Generalissimo Chiang or Chiang Chungcheng and romanized as Chiang Chieh-shih or Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese politician and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death. He was recognized by much of the world as the head of the legitimate government of China until 1971, during which the United Nations passed Resolution 2758.

After graduation, he apprenticed with portraitist Yousuf Karsh for one year. Karsh gave him valuable experience photographing public personalities such as Albert Einstein, Harry Truman and Martha Graham.

Yousuf Karsh Armenian-Canadian photographer

Yousuf Karsh, was an Armenian-Canadian photographer known for his portraits of notable individuals. He has been described as one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century.

Albert Einstein German-born physicist and developer of the theory of relativity

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Martha Graham American dancer and choreographer

Martha Graham was an American modern dancer and choreographer. Her style, the Graham technique, reshaped American dance and is still taught worldwide.

In 1948, Leonard opened his first studio in New York's Greenwich Village at 200 Sullivan St. Working free-lance for various magazines, he spent his evenings at the Royal Roost and then Birdland, where he photographed jazz musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and others. The number of shots possible at a time was limited. Using glass negatives at this time, Leonard increased the sensitivity of the plates by exposing them to mercury vapor.

Greenwich Village Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

Greenwich Village often referred to by locals as simply "the Village", is a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan, New York City, within Lower Manhattan. Broadly, Greenwich Village is bounded by 14th Street to the north, Broadway to the east, Houston Street to the south, and the Hudson River to the west. Greenwich Village also contains several subsections, including the West Village west of Seventh Avenue and the Meatpacking District in the northwest corner of Greenwich Village.

The Royal Roost was a jazz club located at 1580 Broadway in New York City.

Dexter Gordon American jazz tenor saxophonist

Dexter Gordon was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was one of the first players of the instrument in the bebop idiom of musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Gordon's height was 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm), so he was also known as "Long Tall Dexter" and "Sophisticated Giant". His studio and performance career spanned over 40 years.

After working for jazz record producer Norman Granz, who used his work on album jackets, Leonard was employed in 1956 by Marlon Brando as his personal photographer to document an extensive research trip in the Far East. Following his return, Leonard moved to Paris, photographing assignments in the fashion and advertising business and as European correspondent for Playboy magazine. He also photographed many French recording artists for Barclay Records, including Dalida, Charles Aznavour, Léo Ferré, Henri Salvador, Jacques Brel, Jean Ferrat, Les Chaussettes Noires, Eddy Mitchell, and Johnny Hallyday.

Norman Granz American jazz musician and producer

Norman Granz was an American jazz music impresario.

Marlon Brando American actor, film director, and activist

Marlon Brando Jr. was an American actor and film director. With a career spanning 60 years, he is well-regarded for his cultural influence on 20th-century film. Brando's Academy Award-winning performances include that of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972). Brando was an activist for many causes, notably the civil rights movement and various Native American movements. He is credited with helping to popularize the Stanislavski system of acting, having studied with Stella Adler in the 1940s. He is often regarded as one of the first actors to bring Method Acting to mainstream audiences.

Far East geographical term

The Far East is a geographical term in English that usually refers to East Asia, the Russian Far East, and Southeast Asia. South Asia is sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons. The term "Far East" came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 12th century, denoting the Far East as the "farthest" of the three "easts", beyond the Near East and the Middle East. Likewise, in Qing Dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries the term "Tàixī (泰西)" – i.e. anything further west than the Arab world – was used to refer to the Western countries.

In 1980, Leonard, with his wife Elisabeth and two children, Shana and David, moved from Paris to the island of Ibiza, where he remained until 1988, when he relocated to London with his children. It was here that Leonard had his first exhibition of his work at the Special Photographers Company in Notting Hill. The exhibition was visited by over ten thousand people, including singers Sade and Bono of U2. The show toured the United States in 1989, and Leonard briefly moved to San Francisco. After an exhibition at A Gallery for Fine Photography in New Orleans, he fell in love with the city and made it his home for the next fourteen years, immersing himself in the city's lively jazz and blues scene.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged Leonard's home studio when the 17th Canal Levee broke near his home. The photographer and his family lost much property, including 8,000 prints, but his negatives were protected in the vault of the Ogden Museum in New Orleans. [5] Following Hurricane Katrina, Leonard moved to Studio City, California, and re-established his business there, working with music and film companies and magazines. During this time, he received a grant from the GRAMMY Foundation, that allowed for his vast library of photographic negatives to be digitally archived for future generations.

Leonard's jazz photographs, now valuable collector's items, are a unique record of the jazz scene of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and his collection is now in the permanent archives of American Musical History in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2008, long-time friend Tony Bennett presented Leonard with the coveted Lucie Award at a ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York City. [1] In June 2009, Leonard was the commencement speaker for the 2009 graduating class of Ohio University, at which time he also received an honorary doctorate.

He worked with musician Lenny Kravitz on a project in the Bahamas during January 2010. [6]

Louisiana Public Broadcasting, under president Beth Courtney, produced the documentary Frame after Frame: The Images of Herman Leonard.

The BBC produced a film, (2011) "Saving Jazz", about Herman Leonard's struggles following the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. The film was directed by documentary filmmaker Leslie Woodhead.

In 2012, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, CA presented a year-long retrospective, Herman Leonard: Documenting the Giants of Jazz.

In 2013, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR honored Herman Leonard's work with a major five-month exhibition, 'Jazz: Through the Eyes of Herman Leonard'. The exhibition also included artifacts from many of the artists that Leonard photographed, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald. President Clinton has said that "Herman Leonard is the greatest jazz photographer in the history of the genre." A keynote address was given by Leonard's daughter Shana Leonard and Stephen Smith.


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  1. 1 2 "The Lucie Awards - Herman Leonard, 2008 Honoree: Achievement in Portraiture". Lucies.org. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  2. – "Herman Leonard Bio" A Gallery for Fine Photography August 16, 2010
  3. David Houston (October 2006). Jazz, Giants and Journeys: The Photography of Herman Leonard. Scala Publishers. p. 234. ISBN   1-85759-434-7.
  4. Herman Leonard’s Eye for Jazz
  5. Reich, Howard (September 12, 2005). "Thousands of famed photos ruined". Chicagotribune.com. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  6. Obituary: Herman Leonard, Daily Telegraph, August 17, 2010