‘A Jazz Memoir’ Reveals An Intimate Look At Legendary American Jazz Artists

Jazz greats like Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and Louis Armstrong are just a few of the subjects of Herb Snitzer’s photographs on display at the Breman.

Herb Snitzer

Photographer Herb Snitzer has said, “Jazz is a statement about a people’s desire and thirst for freedom. And with freedom, individuality and a sense of self-worth. We must salute jazz musicians, not only as jazz artists but as American artists.”

Snitzer’s works are the subject of a major exhibition at the Breman Museum. “A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” showcases intimate photographs of jazz icons like Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and many others. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Snitzer and exhibit curator Tony Casadonte.

“A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” showcases intimate photographs of jazz icons.

This exhibit features photography documenting America’s jazz scene, focusing on 1957–1964, of his more than 50-year career. These photographs were taken while he was freelancing for Metronome, a magazine primarily focused on jazz.

“The focus of the exhibition for that period was that it was a very rich time, a great deal of social change, and Herb was right there on the pulse of it. That was the core of his work. Herb is still a working photographer,” said Casadonte.

At 87-years-old, Snitzer still documents social injustice and activism. Additional works in the exhibition reveal his desire to use photography in order to effect social change. He believes that “Injustice for one is injustice for all.”

“It’s interesting how this exhibition has morphed over time because originally we were supposed to open this in April, and it was supposed to run alongside the Jazz Festival. [By postponing the exhibit] We were able to add more information and depth of Herb’s work. And the social issues [are] almost a concurrent figure because those social issues go back to the ’50s and run up to 2016. So, there’s an arch to that as well, and it was nice to display both sides,” Casadonte continued.

“A Jazz Memoir” also speaks to the links that connect Jews, jazz and the African American community.

“A Jazz Memoir: Photography by Herb Snitzer” showcases intimate photographs of jazz icons.

“There were many Jewish photographers photographing jazz; most of them are gone now. I think I’m one of the few who have outlived everybody. The connection is an obvious connection– the struggle of Jews in America, the struggle of jazz musicians to live without the fear of the cops..which I always felt was a tragic moment in the history of Black and Jewish relationships…certainly with the Civil Rights Movement, which I was involved in. Those two groups came together and realized that they were ready to join each other,” said Snitzer.

The exhibit will be open virtually Sept. 17 and be on display through March 31, 2021. Private tours and small showings will be available at a later date.