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Sight Readings

Photographers and American Jazz, 1900-1960

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Jazz photography has attracted increasing attention in recent years. Photographs of musicians are popular with enthusiasts, while historians and critics are keen to incorporate photographs as illustrations. Yet there has been little interrogation of these photographs and it is noticeable that what has become known as the jazz photography 'tradition' is dominated by a small number of well-known photographers and 'iconic' images.

Many photographers, including African American photojournalists, studio photographers, early twentieth-century émigrés, the Jewish exiles of the 1930s and vernacular snapshots are frequently overlooked. Drawing on ideas from contemporary photographic theory supported by extensive original archival research, Sight Readings is a thorough exploration of twentieth century jazz photography, and it includes discussions of jazz as a visual subject, its attraction to different types of photographers and offers analysis of why and how they approached the subject in the way they did.

One of the remarkable things about this book is its movement back and forth between detailed archive research, the empirical documentation of photographers, their techniques, working practices, equipment etc., and cultural theory, the sophisticated discussion of aesthetics, cultural sociology, the politics of identity, etc.  The result is both a fine scholarly achievement and an engaging labour of love.


Related Topics: Music

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