The piquant photographer DAVID REDFERN passed at his home in France in November, 2014.  The British-born great –he was well over 6 feet tall– took some of the iconic images in all of jazz history.  Some of them adorn album covers, front covers  of magazines, newspapers of the world and U.S. Postage Stamps, of which I am a collector.  While he dabbled in rock, folk and blues his forte was jazz.  (You can get all  those details from the numerous obits in the major publications the world over.  But this is personal.)

I am proud to have called him friend.  Whilst periodically sharing a flat in London with a former Wall St. colleague there was never a time when David and I didn’t get together for a meal, or a hang, or at a club such as  Ronnie Scott’s.

Redfern’s calendars adorned my walls for decades.  They remain in my collection.  When he visited the Apple he made sure to call for a chat or a meal.  He was usually working so we met sort on the fly.

By using the word “piquant” I mean that David captured the essence of the musician both in action and in portraiture.  Someone noted that you didn’t need words to describe what you were viewing.  “You ‘heard’ the music by looking at the black and white stills.”

He was among the pioneers of the slower color photography.  Slower in this case means shutter speed and less-blurry image capture.  Some of that was due to digital advances in film production, camera capabilities and developing processes.  All of which David was in the forefront.  Film ASA speed came first  A slow painstaking process.  David utilized it all diligently reproducing images to perfection.  Most were un-retouched, i.e., what he saw you got.

Although Redfern had sold his collection to Getty Images he reserved rights to some of his photographs.  So when you see jazz credits to “Getty Images” know that those were Redfern’s.

There are probably no more important photographers –you can count them on one hand– in all of jazz.  When I was forced to take pictures to accompany my articles for Down Beat as they wouldn’t pay a living wage I looked to those iconic figures Bill Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Ray Ross, Jack Vartoogian and Redfern among them for guidance.   I still have the (old tech) equipment they recommended.

© arnold jay smith, November 2014


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