William P. Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz
The Library of Congress National Digital Library Program and the Music
Division announce the release of the on-line collection "William P.
Gottlieb: Photographs from the Golden
Age of Jazz" at the American Memory web site.
In 1995 the Library of Congress purchased the collection with financial
support from the Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund, and the National
Digital Library Program has created the on-line presentation in
collaboration with the Music Division.
The William P. Gottlieb Collection, comprised of over sixteen hundred
photographs of celebrated jazz artists, documents the jazz scene in New
York City and Washington, D.C. from 1938 to 1948. An ardent jazz fan,
Mr. Gottlieb began working for The Washington Post after college and
convinced his editor to let him write a weekly jazz column -- perhaps
the first in a major newspaper -- in addition to his assigned duties.
The Post could not afford to provide a photographer for the column, so
Mr. Gottlieb purchased a Speed Graphic press camera and taught himself
the art of photography in order to illustrate his articles. After his
position with the Post, he worked as a writer-photographer for Down Beat
magazine from 1946 to 1948. His work also frequently appeared in other
periodicals such as Record Changer, Saturday Review, and Collier's.
During the course of his career, Mr. Gottlieb took portraits of
prominent jazz musicians and personalities, including Louis Armstrong,
Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl
Hines, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Ray McKinley, Coleman Hawkins, Ella
Fitzgerald, and Benny Carter.
The on-line collection provides access to digital images of all sixteen
hundred negatives, approximately one hundred annotated contact prints,
and over two hundred photographic prints that show Mr. Gottlieb's
preferred cropping. The web site also includes digital images of Down
Beat magazine articles in which Mr. Gottlieb's photographs were first
Other special features of the on-line presentation are audio clips of
Mr. Gottlieb discussing specific photographs, articles about the
collection from Civilization magazine and the Library of Congress
Information Bulletin, and a "Gottlieb on Assignment" section which
showcases Down Beat articles about Thelonious Monk, Dardanelle, Willie
"The Lion" Smith, and Buddy Rich.
Approximately 1,600 negatives and color transparencies, 64 framed
exhibition prints, 950 reference prints, and accompanying contact prints
compose the collection. The bulk of the negatives are black-and-white
nitrate or acetate film cut into three sizes: 2-1/4 x 2-1/4, 3-1/4 x 4-1/4,
and 4 x 5 inches. Contact prints are 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 inches or less and are
often annotated with cropping, burning, and other special instructions.
Gottlieb divided his photographs into two separate series.
Series A contains many of the most frequently published images while
Series B consists of less popular, but not necessarily lower quality,
photographs. Uncropped 8 x 10-inch reference prints of Series A are
available in the Music Division Reading Room. The Prints and Photographs
Division houses the negatives, color transparencies, and contact prints,
but the Music Division Reading Room handles reference work related to
The Gottlieb Collection receives much use by library patrons both
on-site and off-site and is accessed regularly by journalists, book
editors, museum curators, artists, and producers of multimedia
documentaries. The photographs have been exhibited in more than 150
venues in the United States and abroad, including the National Portrait
Gallery in Washington, D.C. (which has acquired a print of Duke
Ellington), the Library of Congress as part of the permanent American
Treasures exhibit, the Deutsche Bank on Fifty-second Street in New York
City, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Navio
Museum in Osaka, Japan. Mr. Gottlieb's work has been featured in
countless books and articles, used as nearly 250 record album covers,
utilized in television documentaries and major motion pictures, and
distributed as posters, calendars, and T-shirts. In 1994 the United
States Postal Service selected Mr. Gottlieb's portraits of Billie
Holiday, Charlie Parker, Mildred Bailey, and Jimmy Rushing for a series
of postage stamps commemorating jazz singers.
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