Art » Masters of Jazz Photography

Masters of Jazz Photography — Val Wilmer


Louis Armstrong
London, 1961

Photo by Val Wilmer


The great improvisational American jazz musicians of the mid-20th century inspired a generation of photographers to develop a looser, moodier style of visual expression. That evocative approach is on striking display in The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography. Covering six decades of performers — from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to John Coltrane and Miles Davis — this unique collection is as much a comprehensive catalogue of jazz greats as it is a salute to the photographers who captured them.

Lee Tanner was a leading authority on jazz photography. He selected works — by such noted jazz photographers as Herman Leonard, Bob Willoughby, Milt Hinton, and Bill Claxton —that are iconic, candid, explosive, and intimate. They provide a simultaneous look at jazz, photography, and America from 1935 into the 1990s.#


In honor of the late Mr. Tanner, Jerry Jazz Musician presents a number of editions of “Master of Jazz Photography,” featuring a work by one of the photographers featured in The Jazz Image.


This edition: Val Wilmer



Val Wilmer was born in Yorkshire, England in 1941.  She grew up in the austerity of postwar London, and at age twelve she first heard jazz on the radio.  In 1956 she took her first photographs of a musician — Louis Armstrong — using her mother’s Kodak Brownie box camera.  Wilmer recalled, “He gave me his autograph and that ‘Satchmo smile.’ I ‘clunk-clunked’ a couple of snapshots and launched my career.”  She studied photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London and embarked on the twin careers of jazz photography and writing.  Over the years she has illustrated countless book and magazines and has written extensively on music and other topics; her books include The Face of Black Music and Jazz People.  Her prints have been exhibited in many galleries and museums throughout Europe and the United States.  In 1983 she co-founded Format, Britain’s first all-women photographic agency.

– text from The Jazz Image

Lee Morgan
New York, 1971


Sun Ra


Count Basie
Holland, 1977


Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson
Berlin, 1974



Arnett Cobb
London, 1979


Yusef Lateef


About the Author

Lee Tanner photographed jazz musicians for nearly half a century. His photographs have appeared in Down Beat, Jazz Times, American Photo, and Popular Photography, on the covers of many record albums, and in several books.


# Text from the publisher



Read our interview with Lee Tanner

Remembering Lee Tanner