Jean-Pierre Leloir: Photographer celebrated for his pictures of jazz and rock stars of the 1950s and '60s

Outside his native France, the veteran photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir was best known for the concert and behind-the-scenes pictures he took of Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding when they visited Paris and appeared at the famed Olympia Theatre in 1966 and 1967.

These have featured on countless releases and reissues, been widely published and exhibited and demonstrate Leloir's amazing ability to immortalise performers and to capture candid moments in the dressing rooms and the corridors of the legendary Paris venue.

"I loved the people I photographed, so I made myself as available, yet as discreet as possible," he said. "I never wanted to be a paparazzi. I wanted them to forget my presence so I could catch those little unexpected moments."

In France, Leloir was also celebrated for his many photos of jazz musicians and singers, including a rare picture of Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel, the holy trinity of chanson, taken in January 1969.

"It was a real scoop. By sheer luck, I was the only photographer there that day. I never thought the photo would become as famous," he said of the image originally published on the cover of Rock & Folk, the music monthly he helped launch with the journalist Philippe Koechlin in 1966, first as a supplement to Jazz Hot, then as a stand-alone publication.

Born in Paris in 1931, Leloir was passionate about music from his early teens and started taking pictures as a 20-year-old. For publications like Jazz Magazine, L'Express and Le Nouvel Observateur, he photographed many of the jazz musicians who visited Paris or made the French capital their home in the 1950s and '60s, including Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Sydney Bechet, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and Lester Young.

He also documented the golden age of chanson and the "yéyé" era and shot memorable studio and concert photographs of Edith Piaf, Johnny Hallyday, and Yves Montand, among many others. He seemed to have a special empathy with visiting blues, rock and soul musicians from the US and the UK and photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa (Leloir's striking black and white portrait of the guitarist in 1976 is included in the Best of Zappa compilation Strictly Commercial). He also covered the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 and the Orange rock festival, a landmark event in France, in 1975.

Leloir also photographed plays and exhibitions, including Jean Vilar's productions for the Théâtre National Populaire. He enjoyed snapping street life in the US and South American cities he visited and the landscapes of the Corrèze area of France where he had a second home.

The mustachioed Leloir smoked a pipe and had the phlegmatic demeanour of a British gentleman. He knew how to put his subjects at ease in the more formal environment of a studio, playing Vivaldi in the background to help Brel relax, for instance. "His moustache is so fascinating that you end up staring at it and forgetting all about the camera," the Belgian singer said of the photographer, who became a lifelong friend and took most of the pictures that adorned the covers of his records. The many books of Leloir's work include Brel Par Leloir (2008), Johnny Sixties, a collection of his Hallyday photos (2009), Instants De Grâce and Portraits Jazz.

In the mid-1990s, Leloir lost the use of his right eye, which restricted his opportunities. Last January, he was made Chevalier de L'Ordre Des Arts et des Lettres and used the occasion to lecture the culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand about the rights of photographers in the digital age. "It was a great honour, the cherry on a beautiful cake," he nevertheless said of the ceremony, where he met up with the American jazz double bassist Ron Carter, whom he had photographed several times, and who was also honoured that day. "That's what I call the lottery of life," Leloir mused about a life that had been full of such coincidences.

Jean-Pierre Leloir, photographer: born Paris 27 June 1931; married (two daughters); died Paris 20 December 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935