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Bill Claxton - Jazz Photographer

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William Claxton was one of the greatest photographers of the jazz scene. He lived in the Los Angeles area where he began photographing jazz musicians while still a student at UCLA. In the 1950s, while in college, he helped record producer Richard Bock start the Pacific Jazz record company. He shot all the covers, and soon all the major record companies were using him. Over time he authored several books. His photography has been widely exhibited.
Claxton was celebrated for his moody black-and-white portraits of leading jazzmen such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Art Pepper and Thelonious Monk. His photographs of musicians at work around the US in 1960, taken on a four-month journey accompanied by musicologist Joachim-Ernst Berendt, were collected in the book Jazzlife. Claxton took the famous photograph of a brooding Chet Baker with his face reflected on the piano (below). His Baker portraits were collected in the book Young Chet, with a note from Claxton that photography is "jazz for the eye".

Claxton's photographs made striking album covers for Pacific Jazz Records, such as the shot of a seaborne Baker blowing his trumpet in the wind on the sleeve of the 1956 album, Chet Baker and Crew. Shooting LP covers was, wrote Claxton, a "simple and delightful experience" - and an intimate arrangement he preferred to the wrangling of executives and stylists that would accompany CD cover shoots in later years.


Last modified on Monday, 03 November 2014 11:04