Herman Leonard | Ellington & Armstrong, Paris, 1960In the late 1940’s, Herman Leonard’s passion for jazz brought him to the swinging clubs of Broadway, 52nd Street and Harlem. With the camera as his free ticket, he photographed and developed friendships with some of the greats of jazz history including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and many more.
A year’s apprenticeship with Yasuf Karsh provided invaluable experience photographing the likes of Albert Einstein, Harry S. Truman and Clark Gable. In 1956 Leonard was chosen to be Marlon Brando’s personal photographer for an extensive research trip to the Far East. In the late 1950’s Leonard headed for Paris where he worked in fashion and advertising and served as the European photographer for Playboy Magazine.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC has honored him by housing an entire collection of his personal archives of musical history. President Clinton presented a portfolio of Leonard’s prints as an official gift from the United States government to a fellow musician, The King of Thailand. The jazz photographs of Herman Leonard appear as a companion to the great musicians who created the unique sounds of America’s original art form.