photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Claxton Renowned for Images of Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie & more
Master photographer William Claxton, renowned for his images of jazz musicians of the 50’s, has died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 80 of congestive heart failure.
For more than a half century William Claxton captured jazz greats such as Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz; stars such as Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen; and changed the face of fashion photography with his photos of his wife posing in a topless swim suit.
Claxton’s jazz work took subjects out of a formal studio environment and featured them in more relaxed and natural settings such as on the beach. One of his most recognized images portrays a shirtless Chet Baker with his wife Helima, sitting in the sun at Redondo Beach, California (1955).
Claxton is quoted as saying that photography is “jazz for the eyes” and tried to capture the relationship between the artist, their instrument and the music.
“For the photographer, the camera is like a jazz musician’s ax. It’s the tool that you would like to be able to ignore, but you have to have it to convey your thoughts and whatever you want to express through it,” Claxton told jazz writer Don Heckman some years ago.
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