About the US photographer, William CLAXTON (1927-2008)

William CLAXTON made jazz more popular with his impressive photographic portraits of jazz musicians. Already as a psychology student at UCLA in Los Angeles, he was on the road with his camera in jazz clubs. In 1952, at 'The Haig' in L.A., he met Richard Bock while recording the Gerry Mulligan Quartet for his newly founded Pacific Jazz label and was hired by them as a photographer for the label's album covers. It was these photographs that made him famous. Especially the portraits of the young Chet Baker later had a style-defining effect. William CLAXTON also worked as a fashion photographer and in the 1960s was the preferred photographer of Steve McQueen, whom he had met during filming in 1962. In 1959/1960, he traveled the U.S. with Joachim-Ernst Berendt to photograph jazz musicians and street scenes in New Orleans, Kansas City, New York, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among other places, resulting in the illustrated book 'Jazzlife'; published at the time in an edition of nearly 2 million copies, it is now a coveted collector's item.
His photographs also appeared in magazines such as Life, Paris Match and Vogue. William CLAXTON died of heart failure in an L.A. hospital just before his 81st birthday.

Photo books by and about William CLAXTON

'Jazzlife' (1961, 2005); 'Young Chet. A photographic memory of legendary jazzman Chet Baker' (1993, 2006); 'Jazz West Coast. Pacific Jazz 1955' (1993); 'Claxography. The Art of Jazz Photography' ( 1995); 'Jazz' (1996); 'Laugh-Portraits of the Greatest Comedians and the stories they tell each other' (1999); 'Jazz Seen' (1999); 'Photographic Memory' (2002); 'Steve McQueen' (2005); 'New Orleans 1960' (2008)

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The out-of-print volume 'New Orleans 1960' is about the birthplace of jazz. The photos were taken in 1960 during a trip when he traveled through the United States with musicologist Joachim E. Berendt for 'Jazzlife' to document America's original art form.
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'Photographers A-Z' brings together photographers who have made a significant contribution to photographic culture, as well as the most important photographic volumes of the past century. The entries are illustrated with facsimiles from books & magazines.
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"Most of the jazz photography before me showed sweaty musicians with shiny faces in dark, smoky little bars. That was jazz to most people. But being on the West Coast, I wanted to bring out the fact that musicians were living in a very health conscious environment. So I purposely put them on the beach or in the mountains or on the road in their convertibles." (© William CLAXTON)