In the Groove: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard

Exhibition Website

Aug 5 2016 - Feb 20 2017

Enthralled by the music and those who made it, Herman Leonard (1923–2010) began haunting the New York’s jazz clubs after opening his first studio in Greenwich Village in 1948. Armed with his Speed Graphic camera, Leonard made images that captured the very essence of a live jazz performance. Soon, his photographs were gracing album covers and appearing in the pages of DownBeat and Metronome. Leonard’s extraordinary photographs are widely regarded as the definitive portraits of many of the 20th century’s greatest jazz artists.

This exhibition from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery features Leonard’s iconic images of jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and Sarah Vaughan.

Whether you go or no, there are numerous books on Herman Leonard and his photographs of jazz musicians, including Jazz Leonard's friendships with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis gave him rare access to the innovators who made modern jazz and the places in which they made it. Leonard took his camera into the smoky clubs and after-hours sessions, to backstage parties and musicians' apartments, to build an incomparable visual record of one of the twentieth century's most significant art forms. For this definitive collection of his work, Leonard has retrieved scores of previously unseen photographs, published here alongside his most famous and widely recognized images. Includes an essay exploring the stories behind the pictures, and an interview with Leonard revealing his techniques.




  • Photography
  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Portrait
  • Herman Leonard

Exhibition Venues & Dates