Masters of Jazz Photography — Herb Snitzer

August 15th, 2014


“Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane together at The Gate (1961) in warm up sessions to their eventual Village Vanguard recordings made a month later. Recordings which have become seminal sessions for their originality and excitement.”

Photo (and description) by Herb Snitzer


     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: Herb Snitzer


     Herb Snitzer was born in 1932 and grew up in Philadelphia. After graduating from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1957, he moved to New York City, where he quickly established himself as a busy photojournalist. In 1959 Snitzer became the photography editor of Metronome, then associate editor until 1961. During what proved to be a twenty-year break in his photography career, he earned a master’s degree in education and worked in that field. The jazz world beckoned once again in 1986, when Snitzer’s friend of many years, singer-pianist Nina Simone, asked him to accompany her to Switzerland and document several of her concerts. In the 1990s Snitzer moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and opened a studio for fine-art photography. His work is displayed in galleries and museums throughout the country, and he has authored five books on music and education. His most recent book, Jazz: A Visual Journey, contains the best of his jazz photography.

     Descriptions of the photographs below are those of Mr. Snitzer, and come from Herb Snitzer’s website.

“Thelonious Monk in New York, 1959 Monk at play. I used to play him in ping-pong. He was like a cat around the table. I never won a game, but it was a joy to play him. More a joy to listen to his music.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


“One of my more important Pops images, he with his cigarette, shirt open exposing a Star of David given to him by a New Orleans family; the Karnovskys, who befriended him when Pops was a very young boy.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


“Outside the Five Spot Cafe, 1958, Lester being greeted by an unknown admirer or so I believe. I’ve never been able to identify this person. The famous pork pie hat at a slight — and cool — angle.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


“Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island, 1990, and the ever present Gerry Mulligan Quintet had the crowd cheering and dancing. Mulligan was still around after 50 years of playing, doing too many drugs (in his youth) staying the course and having as much to say through his horn at 65 as he did at 25. What an accomplished musician.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


“John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy together at The Gate in a warm up session prior to their Village Vanguard recordings made a month later. Eric on baritone clarinet, John on soprano saxophone; the sound was so unique, so different than what was expected at the time, but these men were on a mission and I can only say, ‘Mission Accomplished.'”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


“Stan Getz in Boston, MA,1989. A dear friend who had a tough life almost up to the end. He FINALLY was able to see the trouble he caused so many others. He died a gentleman and all is forgiven. A great talent.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph



“Miles Davis at the 1990 Newport Jazz Festival. Miles was dead a year later. This image has become well known as one of the significant images of Miles in his later years. I knew I “had it” when the shutter snapped, more than once I might add. There were about ten negatives, each better than the other.”


Details on how to buy a silver gelatin of this photograph


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

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3 comments on “Masters of Jazz Photography — Herb Snitzer”

  1. Snitzer’s imaginative photos are out of this world. I have several posters of other
    great Jazz photographers (B & W) snapped by the giants Herman Leonard and William Gottlieb; some of the featured artists are Parker, Davis, Lady Day, The Divine One,
    Satchmo, Gordon etc.

    Heart felt compliments to them.

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