Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jazz artists as icons

Billie Holiday in 1947, photograph by William Gottlieb
Yesterday, I was writing and thinking about Toni Morrison as an icon, a process made possible by frequent productions, or reproductions, of a few select photographs of her. Long before the images of writers and poets were widely circulated, photographs of jazz musicians were among the most prevalent visual representations of African American artists.

Jazz musicians were  frequently in the public eye. They were national and international performers appearing in front of thousands and thousands of audiences each year, and they were producing albums, which often featured their images on the covers. Accordingly, the musicians were constantly the subject of photographs.

Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, among others, have become the art form's most iconic figures. You can now find their images some of everywhere within and beyond the field of jazz.

That iconic profile of Eric Dolphy
Toni Morrison as icon

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