May 3 – July 27, 2012 at the Vincent Price Art Museum
William Claxton is primarily known as the leading photographer of the early California jazz scene. “Jazz”, one of Claxton’s first books, “is perhaps the first art photography book devoted to jazz musicians. By turns exuberant, joyful, and contemplative, Claxton’s keen, intuitive photographs capture the nuances of the intimacy between jazz musicians and their music.” “What’s fascinating,” Claxton said, “is the way they look when they’re not playing, in other aspects of their lives – practicing, rehearsing, smoking, standing around talking, even eating and using dope. I guess you could say I listen with my eyes.”
“Photography is jazz for the eye”, Claxton said. “Just as jazz is the music or art of the moment – it is spontaneous and just occurs instantaneously – so is photography. Like recorded jazz, photography is a technical process which tries to capture and reproduce a feeling or experience that can be relived years later” (GQ, Conversation with Philip Watson, 1998).
In the 1960’s the New York art scene was winding down and suddenly Los Angeles was producing terrific artists, most of which William Claxton aimed his camera. The artists, such as Ed Ruscha, John Altoon, Ed Kienholz and Ed Moses were photographed enjoying their California youth, bouncing between friend’s studios, art openings, and parties.
William Claxton began photographing jazz musicians while he was a student at UCLA. He went on to help form the Pacific Jazz Record label company where he photographed and designed all the company’s early album covers. His award winning work has appeared on album covers for virtually all the major record companies. Claxton’s photographs of jazz, Hollywood, fashion have appeared in numerous publications including Life, Time, Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Playboy, and Paris Match. In 1967, he directed and produced the acclaimed fashion film “Basic Black.”
Claxton’s publications include “Jazz” (1996), “Claxography: The Art of Jazz Photography” (1996), “The Rudi Gernreich Book” (1999), and “Jazz Scene” (1999).
© Courtesy of Fahey/ Klein Gallery, Los Angeles