Jazz Photographer Chuck Stewart's Work Graces WBGO

Mar 25, 2016

Legendary photographer Chuck Stewart, in his Teaneck home, recalls some of his favorite shoots
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Some of Chuck Stewart's most famous photos of jazz musicians are now on display in the WBGO hallways. Stewart, born in 1927, is best known for his portraits of  jazz singers and musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis, as well as artists in the R&B and salsa genres.

Stewart's photographs have graced more than 2,000 album covers.  Stewart, who lives in Teaneck, NJ, talked about the process of shooting a star musician:

“When you went to a recording studio, you could take pictures on two occasions. One, when they rehearsed everything before they made a take. And after the take, when they were listening to the playback to determine if whether they were satisfied or if they had to do it again.”

But his photographs were not just about music, he captured the images of great athletes as well as historic moments.

When asked how taking photos has changed since his heyday:

“The digital thing would have put people like me out of business, because I had to know every aspect of what I was doing. My eyes said there is the picture the picture is here. Once I take the picture, how do I improve upon it if I have the time? Then I go into the dark room and improve some more. The final result is a picture I want people to see.”

Stewart takes great pride in his technique and his legacy:

“I wanted all of them (photos) to say that’s Chuck Stewart. Because in the first place, if you were to say Count Basie, there must have been a thousand photographers that have photographed him. Well I wanted my photo to say, this is a picture Chuck Stewart took of Count Basie.”

Click above to hear Doug Doyle's in-depth interview with Stewart.