Friday, August 19, 2011
Jazz in Black & White
The headline on this post is the title of a book published seven years ago by Duncan Schiedt, a longtime photographer who in the 1930s found a way to combine his love of jazz music with photography. He began playing keyboards at the age of 14 and not too long afterward got hooked on photography and started taking black-and-white images in New York City jazz clubs using his Argus and Speed Graphic cameras. He decided early on that jazz needed to be photographed in black-and-white.
Even after he moved from the East Coast to Indiana in the early 1950s, he continued composing and photographing his images of jazz personalities on black-and-white film. He also started to embrace the rich Indiana jazz music history and documented it along the way -- while also photographing it -- and eventually published a book about its history, "The Jazz State of Indiana."
Now 90 years old, he still photographs and performs, and on Wednesday, he kindly consented to visit and talk at a meeting of the Indiana Photographic Society, one of the photo clubs I belong to. He spoke to a group of about 25 people at the Garfield Park Arts Center, showing us a slide show that represented not only a sampling of his best work but also an array of human stories he'd collected through the years. As Schiedt explained, there came a point in his career when photographing jazz musicians ceased to be mostly about action shots. Instead, much more paramount was how he wanted his images to tell the human stories, the personalities behind the faces and the performances, which made his anecdotes about each of the images more compelling, slide after slide. Many of the images we saw are contained in "Jazz in Black and White."
I first saw Schiedt in June when he was playing keyboards for a Dixieland combo performing on the porch of the Benjamin Harrison House and Museum in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis on the day the Harrison Home was hosting its annual Wicket World of Croquet competition. The drummer in the combo -- seeing me with camera in hand and photographing the performers -- was kind enough to tip me off to the fact that Duncan, a fellow (and much more notable) photographer -- was the gentleman playing keyboards.
That's what led me to invite Schiedt to talk to our group and share his love and passion ... and anecdotes of human stories. He kindly obliged ... and was well-received. One of the pictures in the slide show is the cover photo in his "Jazz in Black and White" book (inset above), depicting alto saxophone player Johnny Hodges performing at the Indiana State Fair in 1961. Because my scanner couldn't fit the entire depth of the hardcover book, the spotlight above and right of Hodges is partially lopped off. In its full view, it's a very compelling composition.
The pictures in this post, including one color conversion to black and white in his honor, are from his visit Wednesday.