About William P. Gottlieb

William P. Gottlieb, a self-taught photographer, first used a camera in 1939 to illustrate his pioneering jazz column in the Washington Post. Paid for his writing but not his photography, he typically took only two to three pictures per session to save money on flashbulbs and film.

Despite this careful rationing of exposures, Gottlieb succeeded in capturing the personalities of the musicians he photographed — whether it was the joyful exuberance of Louis Armstrong in performance or the sophisticated elegance of Duke Ellingt on taking a break backstage.

Gottlieb took photographs for his columns in the Post and later, Down Beat magazine until 1948, when he gave up jazz photography to produce educational filmstrips. McGraw-Hill bought his company in 1969 and made him president of University Films/McGraw Hill. After Gottlieb retired in 1979, he unearthed his jazz negatives and published a selection of them in The Golden Age of Jazz (now in its twelfth printing). His photographs have since appeared in numerous books, magazines, music albums, posters, exhibitions, and even on U.S. postage stamps.

Gottlieb's incisive portraits captured the essence of an era and gave us unforgettable images of jazz's greatest musicians.