chuck stewart

Credit Chester Higgins, Jr. / Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

*Sadly we must report that legendary photographer Chuck Stewart, known and admired for decades for his iconic photographs of equally iconic jazz musicians, has passed January 20. He was 89. Here is a statement on Stewart’s death from his family:

Our family offers our sincerest thanks to all for thinking so highly of Chuck as a friend, vendor, client and admirer. Over the 70 plus years of his career, Chuck has created a unique style of photography that gave him pleasure which has been published in books, magazines, album covers, CDs,motion pictures, TV sitcoms, documentaries and personal collections. He gave all of himself to the craft he perfected through HIS lens as he saw it. The family also revealed funeral services and condolences:

Funeral Arrangements: Friday January 27th, 2017 Community Baptist Church 224 First St Englewood, New Jersey  07631 Viewing: 10:00 AM Service :11:00 AM Condolences Cards can be sent to: 209 Voorhees St, Teaneck  NJ 07666 Notes and Reflections (many will be read at the service): [email protected] Flowers: Community Baptist Church  224 First St, Englewood, NJ 07631 chuckstewart album covers Chuck Stewart is revered for many album covers of jazz masters and milestones including the historic recording session for John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” classic recording. His death was confirmed by his daughter-in-law Kim Stewart, who has handled the licensing of his images in recent years. Here’s what WBGO.org’s Nate Chinen reported:

Over a distinguished career that spanned more than 70 years, Stewart shot countless artists in profile and at work, capturing resonant and unguarded images that also tell the story of the music. By his estimate, he shot the cover images for more than 2,000 albums, including a large portion of the Impulse! catalog. He also contributed photographs to a range of publications, including Esquire and the New York Times. “In my portraits and improvisational shots, I’ve tried to unveil the soul of the artists I photographed and communicate the essence of their craft,” Stewart wrote in his official bio. “That’s why they trusted me: James Brown, John Coltrane, Candido, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Quincy Jones, Machito, Max Roach, Frank Sinatra, and many more. You know their names, but few people have known and photographed them as I have.”

Stewart, who had been ailing for some time, died at Teaneck, New Jersey’s Holy Name Medical Center, said Kim Stewart. “He died peacefully in his sleep,” she said. “He would have been 90 in May.”

You can read the rest of Nate Chinen’s article on Chuck Stewart WBGO.org.

Here’s a portion of the master photographer’s bio via Wikipedia:

Charles Stewart (May 21, 1927 – January 20, 2017) was an American photographer best known for his portraits of jazz singers and musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis, as well as artists in the R&B and salsa genres. Stewart’s photographs have graced more than 2,000 album covers.

Stewart was born in Texas on May 21, 1927, and grew up in Tucson, Arizona. He received an Kodak Brownie camera as a present when he was 13 years old and used it that same day to take photos of Marian Anderson, who had come to visit his school. After they were developed, he was able to sell his photos for two dollars, making him a professional photographer from his first day he took pictures. He attended Ohio University as a photography major, one of the only two universities in the United States that offered the program at the collegiate level and the only one that would then accept African American students.

While in college, his friendship with photographer Herman Leonard helped him make connections with record companies in New York City. His clients would include Impulse, Mercury, Reprise and Verve, for whom he took cover photos of artists such jazz and R&B icons as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, appearing on more than 2,000 albums and in publications including Esquire, Paris Match and The New York Times, as well as in the Encyclopedia of Jazz by jazz journalist Leonard Feather. He also worked for Chess Records in Chicago (and its Argo subsidiary).

Stewart always tried to capture his subjects in as flattering a pose as possible, saying: “I didn’t want them picking their nose or scratching their behind. It was important to me that I take a picture of a person in a manner that I thought they looked best.” During the 1950s and 1960s he was turned down for more lucrative advertising photography when agencies said that their clients “don’t have black people down here sweeping the floors” and would rather resign the account than accept him.

Read/learn MORE about Chuck Stewart at Wikipedia.