Jazz: A Visual Journey
Great photographers often have an area of interest that becomes a central theme in their work. When you think of Ansel Adams, for example, you naturally imagine Yosemite; or with Annie Lebovitz, popular celebrities come to mind. In the case of photographer Herb Snitzer, the driving force is jazz. Since 1957, publications such as Time, Fortune, Life, Look, and Metronome, to name a few, have featured his photographs. The main focus of his art, however, centers on the jazz world. With his collection, Jazz: A Visual Journey, Snitzer showcases a wide variety of jazz performers. He provides more than just the musician’s portraits, though, he manages to capture the essence of jazz on film.
This collection features photographs from the early years of his career to the present. Jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and John Coltrane, fill the pages. It also features some performers like Trummy Young, Scott Hamilton and Maxine Weldon who haven’t received as much publicity as they deserve. Along with the jazz artists, he includes a handful of blues greats, i.e. B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Junior Wells. Whether posed or candid shots, each reflects something indicative of the performer.
Along with the photographs, Snitzer includes descriptions to accompany them. These are not miniature biographies of the musicians, but rather personal reflections, which enhance their images. These recollections always befit the artist in question. At times they are quite pleasant, and at others more harsh. Whatever the case, the writing never fails to enlighten and entertain the reader; it adds depth and understanding into both his photography and jazz history as well.
Snitzer offers the reader a good deal of information, but not the kind of details you would find in a more academic work. Like his photography, the text captures a glimpse of the subject. Ellington saxophonist, Paul Gonsalves, for example, had a tendency to arrive late at performances. Snitzer recalls a specific Ellington performance: “Gonsalves was late, his empty chair quite noticeable. As he hurriedly made his way to the stage, frantically getting his horn out of the case, Duke called out a tune that featured a Gonsalves solo at the break. Gonsalves was frantic.” Snitzer’s recollections make you want to look at the pictures closely.
Jazz: A Visual Journey offers its readers more than just a collection of photographs. These are images that, like the music of their subjects, stay with you. Outside of a great solo, what more could an artist wish? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Herb Snitzer’s photography would fill the Oxford English Dictionary.