Ted Williams’ historic archive runs to more than 100,000 images and comprises perhaps the most intimate and complete collection of Jazz’s greatest musicians at work, rest, and play. He photographed many of the greats in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong.
American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and singer John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie performing on stage by Ted Williams
Every time I listen to Jazz indoors, I like to watch a slideshow of Ted’s images — not sure what is it I am drawn to at first but I love black and white photography and I assumed that was my initial attraction but it has since pulled my attention to something else. I have photographed music events in Lagos and have consistently shot at the globally acclaimed Felabration Festival back to back since 2014. Afrobeat is a genre whose distant inspiration is somewhere rooted in Jazz, or perhaps better put this way. — “Afrobeat is the 360 comeback that Jazz did after its long odyssey in the west, it found its way back home through the enigmatic Fela Anikulapo Kuti.”
This is a short article on Jazz, Physics and Photography.
Acknowledging that the world is a big gas chamber and we are just bouncing around, bouncing; molecules and isotopes bumping into charges, creating nothing destroying nothing, just forms aligning in different shapes. Some of the greatest photographs of jazz musicians and acts are in Black and White — grainy, energetic, beautiful and powerful in a gripping way even when the musicians are inactive in a portrait and mostly noisy imagery when they are in action, I love it!
The images are a clever use of minimal light in a very poetic way. Taken into consideration the divided state of America at the time, convergence for this kind of music will be done in alternative, poorly lit rooms, parked with believers and enthusiasts, visually enveloped in the best rim light frame, all made better by dark skin tone and sweat and passion rendering striking imagery like the intro to Miles Davis Kind Of Blue and bohemian nonchalance of Charlie Parker’s sounds and the divine compositions of brother Coltrane, again molecules and isotopes playing out randomly leaving behind imprints when exposed against light sensitive surfaces.
Silhoulette of American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk performong on stage at Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island, 1958. by Ted Williams
Physics is mostly about the kinetic and potential, i.e. when to hold and when to fold. The exact rules that make a skillful jazz player, a brilliant street photographer, and a highly unpredictable gambler if you get what I mean. Vibrations bouncing high and low — unsure what is next but certainly not lost. Physics, the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light, and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms. Photography was hatched in science and bloomed through arts both visual and performing.
Jazz is defined by Google as music of Black American origin which emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, characterized by improvisation, syncopation, and usually a regular or forceful rhythm. Brass and woodwind instruments and piano are particularly associated with jazz.
American jazz trumpeter Harold “Shorty” Baker, sidemen with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, performing for the camera, Chicago, 1959. by Ted Williams
I picture Andrew Winongrand in Lagos bouncing around, characterized by improvisation, weaving and snapping away in Yaba Market as I do when I shoot the streets of Lagos with my earphones on blasting away listening with amused eyes bringing me gems click after click in tune with the gift of rise and fall in the decibels of the music that guide my voyage as I observe the human carnival, bouncing around. Bouncing.
This article first appeared on Medium.