Jazz: Through the Life and Lens of Milt Hinton — A Photo Exhibit

May 9th, 2014

The Photography of Milt Hinton

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Photo copyright Robert Appleton

Milt Hinton, Hartford, Connecticut, 1990

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 The black-and-white photographs taken by Milt Hinton between 1935 and 1999 comprise the major part of the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, which is housed in New York City.  The collection, co-directed by David G. Berger and Holly Maxson, contains approximately sixty thousand 35 mm negatives, thousands of reference and exhibition-quality prints, and photographs given to and collected by Milt throughout his life.

 Photographs from the collection have appeared in books, periodicals, newspapers, jazz calendars, postcards, CD art, films, in videos, and on the Internet.

 The collection has curated exhibition at venues ranging from neighborhood community centers to museums, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution.

 Until Milt’s death in 2000, the management of the collection — selecting negatives for reference and exhibition prints, monitoring print quality, and choosing exhibition sites — involved a close collaborative effort between Milt, David, and Holly.  In their continuing administration of the collection, David and Holly are always mindful of Milt’s point of view as a documentarian, his aesthetic, and his “voice.”

 Milt was never a professional photographer, and he readily acknowledged that many of his pictures are of dubious quality.  He rarely used a flash in low-light situations, and to be less obtrusive, he often preset the camera’s focus so he could literally shoot from the hip.  Many rolls of film remained undeveloped for twenty years, and because Milt was
seldom in the darkroom, at times he inadvertently used stale chemicals to process his film.  Negatives remained paper-clipped to contact sheets for years, which resulted in rust problems, and several basement floods caused many to adhere to one another and to their paper sleeves.

 A current and major goal of the collection is to complete a database of Milt’s photographs.  This on-going project, begun in the late 1990s, in recent years has benefited from advances in digital photography. Scanning has become faster and more accurate, and digital storage is less expensive.  Computer software allows a trained user to restore a damaged negative or print and to retrieve elusive details from poor-quality images while maintaining the integrity of the photographs.  The success of digital processing is clearly visible in the 2002 Berger and Maxson documentary film, Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milt Hinton, and in some of the photographs that appear in their book Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs as well.

– From Playing
the Changes:  Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs
, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson

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Additional information and a current listing of shows can be found at
www.MiltHinton.com

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Danny Barker, Hot Lips Page (foreground) and other patrons including Barney Bigard, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Claude Jones, and Wellman Braud, Beefsteak Charlie’s, New York City, c. 1954

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“After the two books with my photographs came out, people got more interested in them than ever before. I had shows at places like Rhode Island School of Design and the Denver Art Museum, which I’ve been told are very prestigious.
 Truthfully, that kind of thing has never really mattered to me.  My main concern has always been that people from all walks of life have a chance to see my pictures.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Louis and Lucille Armstrong, Honolulu, 1954

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Count Basie and Duke Ellington, recording studio, New York City,
1961

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“To call Milt Hinton a historian is not stretching the term.  He may not always have been conscious of this role, but his ability to listen, to ask key questions, and to remember well was there almost from the start.”

– Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Eubie Blake, concert (25th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival),
the White House, Washington, D.C., 1978

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Dizzy Gillespie, Chu Berry, and Butter Jackson, Fox Theater, Detroit,
c. 1940

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“When I first started out in the ’30s, I took pictures so I could show my family and friends that I’d really been to all those places and knew all those people.  Several years later, the guys I was traveling with became my friends and I shot things we all experienced so we could share them later.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Cab Calloway with a winner of the Cab Calloway Quizzicale radio show,
Florida, 1941

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“I got my first camera in 1935.  It was a 35 mm Argus C3, and it was a present for my twenty-fifth birthday.  I had the Argus with me when I started on the road with Cab in 1936.  Although I took a few posed shots, I was never much for taking formal pictures.  Everybody was shooting the band onstage in uniform, and if you went to a professional
photographer for your own publicity shot, he’d ask you to smile and act like you were playing your instrument.  I’ve never wanted to get those kinds of photos because I don’t see musicians that way.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Johnny Hodges, Beefsteak Charlie’s, New York City, c. 1960

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Herb Flemming and Sonny  Greer, Beefsteak Charlies, New York
City, 1954

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“[Hinton’s] sense of history…also led to Milt’s taking up photography, still another way of documenting and preserving the past for the present and future.  Even the earliest photos…demonstrate his talent for composition within the frame, his skills as an observer, and his perfect sense of timing — the latter a gift surely akin to his mastery of jazz
rhythm.”

– Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Louis Armstrong, hotel room, Seattle, 1954

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Dizzy Gillespie, the Palace Theater, Cleveland, 1939

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“I still get asked why I took some of the pictures I did, and it’s hard to answer that question.  When I took those early pictures of Dizzy, we were both in Cab’s band.  Even back in those days, I knew he was very innovative, but I never suspected he would turn out to be such a giant.  The same thing was true for Chu [Berry] and Cozy [Cole] and the other guys.  These were my friends, and I wanted pictures of them so that one day we could look back and remember the great times we shared.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Danny Barker and Dizzy Gillespie, train, c. 1940

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“I always tried to capture something different.  Whenever possible, I liked to shoot people when they were off guard or unaware.  Of course, I was limited in some ways.  I didn’t have a flash in the early days, and the film speed was so slow you couldn’t take photographs indoors without using a long exposure.  Even so, I did get some unusual shots inside, like pictures of the guys sleeping on the train.  There were also times when the stage lights were on and I could use them to get a better indoor exposure.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Chu Berry, unknown, Danny Barker, and Lammar Wright, Durham, North Carolina, c. 1940

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Art Farmer, unknown, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Bob Brookmeyer, recording studio, New York City, 1958

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“At some point, probably in the late ’40s, I saw that jazz was changing quickly and there were new faces coming on the scene all the time.  Some of the pioneers like Chu [Berry] and Jimmy Blanton were already gone, and some of the other greats were well on their way to early deaths.  For some reason, I felt strongly about using my camera to capture people and events from the jazz world that I was lucky enough to see.  I guess I realized I was actually living through jazz history.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

J.J. Johnson, Osie Johnson and Miles Davis, recording studio, New York City, c. 1956

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis, classroom, New Orleans, c. 1978

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Teddy Wilson, recording studio, New York City, c. 1955

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“By the time I was playing in the studios regularly, I had one or two cameras with me all the time.  Record companies had great professional photographers come in and shoot sessions, but they kept a close watch on these guys.  They’d usually let them in at the beginning and end of a date, or during five-minute breaks.  Sometimes I’d see a makeup artist work on a performer for an hour and someone else setting up a background to stage a candid shot.  Of course, as a musician hired to play, I could get pictures whenever I wanted.  During all those years, I don’t remember anyone ever trying to stop me.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Aretha Franklin, recording studio, New York City, c. 1961

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Cannonball Adderley, recording studio, New York City, c. 1958

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Ernie Wilkins, Kenny Drew (at the piano), and Dinah Washington, recording studio, New York City, c. 1956

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Lester Young, television studio (Sound of Jazz rehearsal),
New York City, 1957

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“I’m…pleased about some of the pictures I got at the Sound of Jazz television show.  As far as I’m concerned, this was one of the best programs ever done on jazz.  I got photos of Basie, Billie, Prez, Bean and many others.  I know you can get the program on videotape and I’ve seen it a dozen times.  But photos are different.  You can study them.  You can analyze the expressions on people’s faces, and to my way of thinking, you can see what they’re really all about.  That’s one thing which always attracted me to photography.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Billie Holiday and Count Basie, television studio (Sound of Jazz rehearsal), New York City, 1957

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Thelonious Monk, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Count Basie; television studio (Sound of Jazz rehearsal), New York City, 1957

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Benny Goodman, concert rehearsal, New York City, c. 1956

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“During my days in the studios, whenever I had time, I’d make a few black-and-white prints from what I’d shot a day or two earlier.  Then I’d give them out to the guys the next time I saw them on a record date. Although it was unintentional, the prints I made of my white friends always came out looking very dark.  And whenever someone teased me about it, I’d say the same thing: ‘I can’t help it, that’s just the way I see everybody.'”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Ben Webster, Beefsteak Charlie’s, New York City, c. 1960

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Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Jimmy Rushing, concert, Forest Hills, Queens, New York City,
1963

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Willie “The Lion” Smith and Eubie Blake, backstage, Newport Jazz Festival,
Newport, Rhode Island, c. 1971

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Lester Young and J.C. Heard, Esquire magazine photo shoot,
Harlem, New York City, 1958

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“In 1958, Esquire magazine invited practically every living jazz musician to pose for a picture up in Harlem…

“I don’t think the Esquire people had any idea about the importance of the gathering.  All they seemed to want was a perfect shot of the whole group posed on the stoop of a brownstone….

“Fortunately, I had enough sense to bring [three cameras]…

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Front row:  George Wettling and Bud Freeman; Second row:  Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Sonny Greer; Third row: Miff Mole, Zutty Singleton, and Red Allen; Fourth row:  Dickie Wells, Art Blakey and Taft Jordan; Top row:  Buck Clayton, Benny Golson, Art Farmer, and Hilton Jefferson, Esquire magazine photo shoot, Harlem, New York City, 1958

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“The shot I got that day of some of the greatest drummers in jazz is one of my favorites.  Just being able to capture Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, George Wettling, Zutty Singleton, Sonny Greer, and Art Blakey all together was the chance of a lifetime.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Billie Holiday, recording studio (her last recording session), New York City, 1959

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“…very few [jazz photographers] were privy to so many informal shooting opportunities as Milt, who manifests a trait rare to photographers — discretion.
 Even when he took those lovely shots of his sleeping colleagues on buses and trains, he never took unfair advantage of them, and his heart rending studies of Billie Holiday nearing the end of her life are devoid of intrusiveness
and cruelty.”

– Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Billie Holiday, recording studio (her last recording session), New York City, 1959

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“I get asked most often about the shots I took of Billie Holiday at what turned out to be her last recording session.  I had the feeling she was close to the end.  I think the record company people knew exactly what was going on and were trying to finish the album while she was still on her feet.”

– Milt Hinton

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Beefsteak Charlie’s patrons include Art Blakey, Tyree Glenn, Catherine Basie, and Illinois Jacquet, New York City, 1958

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“[Hinton was] a tolerant man, but he cannot stand deviousness, and, being an honest man, he has always stood up for his own rights and for others’ as well.  Such unfashionable virtues as self-respect and respect for others have contributed greatly to Milt Hinton’s success in life and music — combined, of course, with exceptional talent and a willingness to face professional challenges.”

– Jazz critic Dan Morgenstern

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Quincy Jones, recording studio, New York City, c. 1959

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Mary Lou Williams, Yale University, New Haven, c. 1972

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Sarah Vaughan, Pearl Bailey, and Ella Fitzgerald, rehearsal, television
studio, Pasadena, California, 1979

Photo Copyright by the Milton J. Hinton Photographic
Collection

Dizzy Gillespie, Grande Parde du Jazz, Nice, France, c. 1981

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“When I look back at where I’ve come from, I still can’t believe how things have turned out — what I’ve experienced in almost nine decades on this earth, and how lucky I’ve been.”

– Milt Hinton

Page one of “Jazz:  Through the Life and Lens of Milt Hinton”:

The
Life of Milt Hinton

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playingthechanges

All photos and book excerpts from
Playing
the Changes:  Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs
, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson, published by
Vanderbilt University
Press
. Copyright (c) 2008 by Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection.
All rights reserved.

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