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Chicago Tribune: Thousands of famed photos ruined

Gulf Coast Crisis: Jazz Heritage: Thousands of famed photos ruined
By Howard Reich
Tribune arts critic
Published September 12, 2005

"They rank among the world's most iconic images of jazz:

"Louis Armstrong lost in a reverie; Duke Ellington bathed in a beam of white light; Ella Fitzgerald caught up in a song, a bead of sweat rolling down her cheek.

"Stored for more than a decade in photographer Herman Leonard's home-studio in New Orleans, the precious negatives barely were rescued from the path of Hurricane Katrina. But thousands of Leonard's sumptuous black-and-white prints, documenting not only a golden era of jazz but also more recent New Orleans music, have been destroyed by the flooding that followed.

"Were it not for the hurried actions of Leonard's staff, which arranged for several thousand of his most precious jazz negatives to be placed on high ground--under protection of armed guards--the world would have lost the visual record of an American art form."

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