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Gottlieb Jazz Photos on Flickr

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Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Feb. 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.
Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Feb. 1947. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

William P. Gottlieb (1917-2006) is one of the most celebrated jazz photographers. His iconic images documenting the great stylists and innovators in American jazz and popular music have been studied and reproduced for generations, and his collection of photographs is one of the Library’s great treasures. The Music Division is now pleased to announce the launch of the William P. Gottlieb Collection on the Library’s Flickr pilot.

Gottlieb began as a music journalist who became a self-taught photographer in order to illustrate his stories written for the Washington Post, Down Beat and other publications between the years 1938-48. With his speed graphic camera, Gottlieb shot on location outdoors, as well as in clubs, concert halls and homes. His often dramatic use of light and composition helped to capture the spirit, personality and experience of many great musicians, from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, to bebop pioneers Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.

The Library’s William P. Gottlieb Collection includes more than 1600 of his mostly black & white photographs. They’ve all been scanned and placed on the Music Division’s website. In addition to the Flickr launch, we have also loaded jpegs and higher resolution TIFF files of all 1600 photographs on the Performing Arts Encyclopedia’s  Gottlieb page.  There, you’ll often find multiple versions of a single image, providing insight into Gottlieb’s creative vision and process. You can see how his cropping affected the final image, and notice how he altered tone and color as well. The Gottlieb page also features articles by and about Gottlieb, in addition to audio commentary from the photographer himself.

Photographs from the Gottlieb Collection went into the public domain on February 16, 2010; however, privacy rights may apply. The first Flickr load includes the 200 images Gottlieb handpicked to publish in his book, The Golden Age of Jazz. We’ll keep loading new batches of Gottlieb photos every couple of weeks, so keep checking back!


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