New Collection of 12,000 Photographs Chronicles the American Jazz Scene


A donation from the family of photographer and historian Duncan Schiedt captures the music’s “essence”

Photographer Duncan Schiedt shot exclusively in black and white. He wanted to capture the gradients of feeling that jazz evokes, or what he saw as the music’s “essence.” Schiedt once said, “Jazz is a black and white music. Its range, from blinding brilliances to deepest shadings, seems to demand the drama that black and white can so easily provoke.

Schiedt’s family recently donated a body of the photographer’s work to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, some 26-to-30 cubic feet of material that includes more than 12,000 images, both Schiedt’s own images as well as historical photos that the photographer collected. The collection, says the museum’s John Edward Hasse is “one of the largest photo archives in jazz history.”

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**Pictured above Duke Ellington with his arm around Billy Strayhorne  1940-1941

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