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Archive for the ‘Photography’

Roy DeCarava R.I.P.

November 28th, 2009

John Coltrane by Roy DeCarava      Catalog ©1983, Studio Museum in Harlem
The Sound I Saw

Roy DeCarava isn’t a photographer, he’s a composer.”
–Historian Nat Hentoff to me, 1988

Master photographer Roy DeCarava died last month. It took a while for me to find the photo of his that turned my world around, but here it is, as part of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s 1983 catalog for his one man show of jazz photographs that introduced me to his eye. Getting to meet Roy and Sherry DeCarava became a great bonus in my life.

Roy chronicled the New York African American experience with an unparalleled voice, as just a glance at any of his (currently out of print) monographs or a Google Image search clearly shows.

I was always interested in photography, but music had taken its place for more than 20 years in my life, when my photographer sister invited me to a show in 1983. I’d never been to the Studio Museum in Harlem, and had never heard of the photographer, but she didn’t ask often and it was great for us to spend some time together over a shared interest.

Immediately, this shot of John Coltrane hit me like a ball of lightning. For me, music photography had been an enlightening capture of a moment, a remembrance of a sound maybe I hadn’t heard. For the first time, in this kinetic image of Coltrane I felt the same way as when I listened. It was pure emotion, not a recording.

Obsessive I can sometimes be, and I tried in those pre-internet days to find out something about this man, an almost unknown jazz photographer. There was almost nothing, a few references to some out of print books. No one at any galleries I visited seemed to know anything. How could it be someone so great was so poorly chronicled. Finally, I turned up a copy of a monograph, patiently waited for the mail, cracked it open and saw… not too much jazz. Or, more precisely, jazz as it really was, a small part of the day to day experience of African Americans in the 1950s and 60s.

Photo of Roy DeCarava by Mitsu Yasukawa for the Los Angeles Times
Roy De Carava by Mitsu Yasukawa
For five years I hoped to learn more, and somehow or other, found that Roy lived in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. In the process, I’d become friendly (and obsessed) with other jazz photographers like William Claxton who only had reverence for Roy’s work. I wrote and called repeatedly, mentioning my interest in helping getting the jazz photographs published in a book (even if I had to do it myself) and after months of quiet rejection, got an invitation to the DeCarava’s home. I found an artist and a scholar, proud of their accomplishments and their family, protective of Roy’s work, willing to entertain any ideas that could help spread the legacy in a way they felt appropriate. Declining the traditional methods of promotion and distribution they felt the photographs represented a great body of work that needed to be exposed in just the right way. Roy taught master printing at Hunter College in New York (who better? Check out his tones that often start at 60% gray) and could wait until his wishes were properly followed.

I wasn’t able to be helpful, spirited amateur that I was, but we stayed in touch sporadically over the years. I brought my wife to San Francisco for the traveling show curated by the Museum of Modern Art. We spoke last month on the phone, he sounded great.

Listen to Roy himself, interviewed by Charlie Rose, on the occasion of his Museum of Modern Art retrospective.

By the way, Roy’s jazz work was finally released with exactly the vision he saw for it. The museum catalog was named the same, but was just a hint of what was to be The Sound I  Saw, published by the Phaidon Press. Whatever you think of jazz, buy it. It sounds just right.

Andy Schwartz in the house.

November 25th, 2008

Andy Schwartz at Frederator from Fred Seibert on Vimeo.

I have an incredible life and I’ve met some amazing people. Including Andy Schwartz, a writer who’s a friend of my wife’s who’s met many more amazing people than I have. This afternoon he came by to discuss the photographic estate of the incomparable music photographer David Gahr, who recently passed away at 85. Andy shows a few of David’s photographs in the video above, and together we plotted to build the public Gahr legacy that David was always too modest to do himself.

Happy Father’s Day

June 15th, 2008

George Seibert, 1950

Frederator Postcard Series 6.10
Mailed the week of June 9, 2008

Frederator Postcards Series 1, 1998
Frederator Postcards Series 2, 1999
Frederator Postcards Series 3, 2000
Frederator Postcards Series 4, 2003
Frederator Postcards Series 5, 2004-2005
Frederator Postcards Series 6, 2007-2008

David Hume Kennerly, photographer.

June 2nd, 2008

Hotel Lucia, Portland, Oregon

So I was visiting Laika in Portland the other day. I stay at the Hotel Lucia where they paper the halls and rooms with hundreds of photos by the Pulitzer winning photographer David Hume Kennerly. This one outside my room works like many great political photos seeming to perfectly capture the personalities of Bill and Hillary Clinton during Monicagate.

Photographs of Bill and Hillary Clinton from 1998
by David Hume Kennerly
at Hotel Lucia, 7th Floor, Portland, Oregon

The Blue Note Records color photography of Francis Wolff.

October 30th, 2007

Hank Mobley

Color photography by Francis Wolff

“Blue Note Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff”

The Blue Note Years: The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I began my careers producing jazz records, and as I moved through I never lost the jazz taste. For years I worked with Mosaic Records, and was proudly associated wtih helping them establish Mosaic Editions, formed to distribute the legacy of Blue Note Records founder Francis Wolff.

Primarily known for his classic black & white documentary jazz photography, Blue Note founder Francis Wolff was able to achieve the same aura with his switch to color in the late 1960s.

Blue Note Records was formed in 1939 by two German immigrants to the USA, producer Alfred Lion and photographer Francis (Frank) Wolff.

Mosaic Records is the brainchild of Charlie Lourie and producer Michael Cuscuna. Early on they focused on the music of Blue Note Records –Michael literally wrote the discography– though neither of them had ever met the legendary founder Alfred Lion.

A few years after they started the business Alfred, retired down South, started a phone relationship with Mosaic, giving them tips and an occasional session photo. When he died, his wife Ruth called Charlie and Michael and offered them custody of Francis Wolff’s personal Blue Note photo archive, which was stored in her bedroom in a trunk, having never been touched since Frank’s death in 1971.

Every Sunday for months, Michael, Charlie and yours truly would painstakingly go through the negatives and contact sheets to archive the stuff. We launched Mosiac Editions to distribute the best work, and eventually Mosiac lublished the two books of Frank’s work referenced above.

Apropos of nothing.

July 10th, 2007


This post has absolutely nothing to do with animation.

I’ve been cleaning out my drawers lately which caused me to scan some of my stuff and throw it on my Flickr page. Some of it’ll eventually get linked to on my old branding agency archive, but who knows about the rest.

The picture above is from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. It’s from a random collection of photographs I found in a box at a junk shop specializing in then-uncool mid-century furniture. I couldn’t resist the hundreds of vintage prints of these amazing deco buildlings I’d really only seen in amazing stylized illustrations from the fair. I had no idea what I was going to do with the snaps –hell, I still don’t know what I’m going to do with them– but they were great just to have.


Mosaic Records Brochure No. 4

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Catalogs Consumer catalog 1984

In the late 70s I was producing jazz records and became friendly with Michael Cuscuna, soon to become one of the medium’s most revered producers and the leading reissue producer in history. In the early 80s he and BlueNote executive Charlie Lourie started the pioneering Mosaic Records as the first company specializing in boxed set reissues of classic performances, available only by mail order. Michael and I became reacquainted when I ordered their first set (The Complete BlueNote Recordings of Thelonious Monk) and he asked me to get involved with helping them out of the hole. It turned out their ’sure thing’ idea wasn’t having many takers and they were worried about shutting down. My partner Alan Goodman and I turned them down two years in a row with a lot of unsolitcited advice about what they could do better –we were broke and our company was barely alive itself– even if we were talking through our hats. Everything we knew about direct mail cataloging was from being mail order customers ourselves and from a direct mail how-to book I’d read the first chapter of. We loved Michael and Charlie, and we admired what they were trying to accomplish at Mosaic, but we were just too low on bandwidth.

Three years in our company was doing a little better and Mosaic was doing a lot worse; Michael and Charlie successfully prevailed on us to finally help. We knew no more, but full of the arrogance of youth we lugged out Alan’s first generation portable computer and invented the first Mosaic 12-page brochure on our summer picnic table. Alan wrote every word (I supervised “strategy” — what else is new?), our friends Tom Corey and Scott Nash designed the thing, Jessica Wolf supervised the production and we mailed out the first Mosaic catalog ever in the summer of 1986.

We waited for the order phones to ring, and lo and behold, in the first three weeks Mosaic’s business had increased 10 fold. They were in business forever. Alan’s still writing the brochures, I’m still getting the free box sets and lobbing in ideas from the side. What a world we live in. I’ve never been prouder of any project I’ve worked on in my life.

Do you like jazz? Order one of the Mosaic sets. They are still the standard by which all others are judged.