Music mourns photographer who chronicled icons of jazz

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The Independent Online

Herman Leonard, the American photographer who captured the jazz halls of New York, Paris and London, has died in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 87.

During the Second World War, Leonard made his mark roaming the clubs of New York City, taking silky, black-and-white portraits of legends of American jazz and swing such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

It was a fascination with music that remained with him throughout his career. Last year, Leonard, who was born to Romanian parents in Pennsylvania, was asked to be the official photographer for the Montreal Jazz Festival.

"You could look at his photos and almost hear the music," John Edward Hasse, a curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, said. "He used light, shadow and smoke, and he made indelible the faces of many of the greatest American musicians of the 20th century."

Leonard's travels began in 1956 when Marlon Brando, the actor, took him on a tour of the Far East as his photographer. Leonard then lived for seven years in Paris, still pursuing the stars of jazz. In the late 1980s he moved to London, where he held his first exhibition.

He moved to New Orleans in the early 1990s, where flood waters during Hurricane Katrina ruined his home and destroyed 8,000 of his archive prints. His negatives were not in his home and, in the last years of his life in Los Angeles, he successfully digitised and catalogued 60,000 of his frames.