BATON ROUGE, La — As part of an upcoming exhibit at the LSU Museum of Art focusing on the photography of famed jazz photographer Herman Leonard and works by LSU professor emeritus and painter Ed Pramuk, Louisiana Public Broadcasting will premiere a half-hour documentary on the life and work of Leonard.
The documentary, titled “Frame After Frame: The Images of Herman Leonard,” will be shown on Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m. in the museum, located on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts, 100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge. Admission is free and open to the public.
The viewing will be part of the programming surrounding a two-part exhibit featuring 36 of Leonard’s striking black-and-white photographs, shown alongside more than two dozen of Pramuk’s musical-themed paintings, drawings and mixed-media collages. “An Eye on Jazz: Photographs by Herman Leonard” and “Edward Pramuk: Seeing Music,” will be on display on the museum May 17-July 14.
“Frame After Frame” is the story of a man whose art has finally received the recognition it deserves, even if it took almost 50 years for it to happen. The documentary is narrated by Tony Bennett and produced and directed by Tika Laudun for Louisiana Public Broadcasting. It was written by Al Godoy, edited by Randy Ward and photographed by Rex Fortenberry and Tika Laudun, graphics design by Lee Barbier. This documentary was produced through a grant from the Southern Early Childhood Association.
Leonard’s “hobby” of shooting portraits of the jazz immortals of the 1940s and 50s has landed his photographs in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution. He counts Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett among his closest friends. He has done photo shoots in the Himalayas, lived on an island with no electricity, traveled the Orient with Marlon Brando, and photographed the most beautiful women in the world on commercial shoots around the globe.
By all accounts, Leonard has led a remarkable life. “Frame After Frame” tells the story of the life and work of this renowned photographer through interviews with Leonard and his friends and, of course, through the extraordinary photographs he has produced.
After being discharged from the army and graduating from Ohio University in 1947, a young Leonard went north to Canada to apprentice with world famous photographic artist Yousuf Karsh. While working with the master, Leonard assisted in shooting portraits of Albert Einstein, President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Gen. Dwight Einsenhower and Martha Graham.
When Leonard arrived in New York in the late 1940s, jazz was king. Trading his photographs to club owners to gain entree to the clubs and the music he loved, he captured the smoky essence of the New York jazz scene as few have before or since. Herman's elegant portraits are a reminder of a simpler and more stylish era. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Theolonius Monk, Charlie Mingus, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday are just a few of the jazz immortals captured by the visual artistry of Leonard. His photographs often involved just a single streak of light with the subject's face in silhouette or peering through a cloud of smoke. To pay the bills, Leonard photographed the major stars of stage and screen at his portrait studio.
Following the screening, Laudun and Godoy will discuss the film and host a question-and-answer session.