Masters of Jazz Photography — Gjon Mili

January 29th, 2014

Masters of Jazz Photography

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.

The late Lee Tanner was a leading authority on jazz photography. For this book, Tanner 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.#

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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: Gjon Mili

 


 


 mili-basie

 Lester Young (saxophone) and Count Basie (right), 1943

 

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mili-holiday
A 1943 jam session in Mili’s New York studio, with Billie Holiday

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mili-johnson
James P. Johnson in Mili’s studio
New York, 1943

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mili-williams
Mary Lou Williams and bassist John Simmons
In Mili’s New York studio, 1943

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mili-white1
Josh White
New York, 1943

 

 

 

 


 

mili

 

      Gjon Mili came to the United States from Romania in 1923 to study electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  After graduation he joined the Westinghouse Company to conduct lighting research.  Photoflash lamps, invented in 1931, had just arrived in the US, and he began experimenting with lighting and shutter synchronization.  He later opened his own studio in New York City and started photographing for Life magazine.  Mili’s work over the next decades featured great personalities in the worlds of sports, theater, dance, and music.  Mili became friends with many of his subjects, who would return to his studio after hours for parties, poker games, and jam sessions.  In 1944 Life produced a photo-essay on one such session, titled “Life Goes to a Party.”  That year Mili made his first short film, Jammin’ the Blues, in collaboration with Norman Granz, a film editor who was just starting to produce the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series.  This short of  a jam session is one of the finest presentations of jazz in film.  In 1966 a fire destroyed Mili’s studio, wiping out most of his prints and negatives.  Fortunately, his work for Life was safe in the magazine’s archives.  Mili’s vintage prints are available at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, and new prints can be obtained from Getty Images.

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Jammin’ the Blues  

Read Mr.Mili’s February 16, 1984 obituary

 


 

 

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.

 

 

Jerry Jazz Musician remembers Lee Tanner

 

# Text from the publisher

 

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In This Issue

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