LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Feb. 27, 2013) -- The William J. Clinton Presidential Center will open its new temporary exhibit, "Jazz: Through the Eyes of Herman Leonard," on March 2, 2013. The new exhibit features more than 40 original black and white images from the collection of Herman Leonard, an American photographer who documented the evolution of the art form from the 1940s through post Hurricane Katrina. By capturing the artists in their element - and in the moment - Leonard tells the story of jazz artist by artist.
The exhibit features America's greatest jazz artists including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald through iconic photographs from The Herman Leonard collection and memorabilia on loan from museums and private collectors nationwide, including The Freeman Institute® Black History Collection, Miles Davis Properties, LLC, Louis Armstrong House Museum, Mrs. Linda Moody, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Sherman Jazz Museum, the Herman Leonard Estate, Quincy Jones Productions, and President Bill Clinton.
"Jazz is very complex, and the musicians who master the genre are as technically good as they are emotionally compelling. The same can be said for Herman Leonard. His work is both beautifully precise and incredibly raw," said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the William J. Clinton Foundation. "His work was recently exhibited at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and at Lincoln Center in New York City, so we are thrilled to bring this world-class collection to Little Rock."
A native of Pennsylvania, Leonard's passion for jazz led him to New York City's Greenwich Village, where he set up shop and began to capture and chronicle the musicians and the 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.
In 1991, Herman moved to New Orleans and immersed himself in the city's lively jazz scene, and exhibited his work around the world in numerous solo shows. In 1995, he was awarded an Honorary Masters of Science in Photography from The Brooks Institute of Photography. Other awards include the "Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography" from the Jazz Photographer's Association in 1999, the "Excellence in Photography Award" from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2000, a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from Downbeat magazine in 2004, and a Lucie Award for achievement in portraiture in 2008.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed Herman's home and studio. The storm claimed some 8,000 photographs that had been hand-printed by Herman, a master printer in his own right. As the storm blew in, Herman's crew gathered the negatives and placed them in the care of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art where they were stored in an upper floor vault.
In 2006, Leonard released a book, "Jazz, Giants, And Journeys: The Photography of Herman Leonard", published by Scala Publishers, Ltd. In his forward to the book, Quincy Jones wrote, "When people think of jazz, their mental picture is likely one of Herman's."
"Jazz: Through the Eyes of Herman Leonard" runs through July 21, 2013.