R.I.P. David Redfern, Legendary Jazz and Rock Photographer | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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John Lennon photographed by David Redfern; David Redfern photographed by Leon Morris

R.I.P. David Redfern, Legendary Jazz and Rock Photographer

He Photographed The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and More and Was the Father of Under the Radar's Co-Publisher/Co-Founder Mark Redfern

Oct 24, 2014 Photography by David Redfern David Redfern
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David Redfern, the legendary British music photographer known for his iconic photographs of musicians such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and Miles Davis, among many others, passed away on Wednesday morning (October 22, 2014). He was 78-years-old and was also the father of Under the Radar’s co-publisher/co-founder Mark Redfern (who runs the magazine/website with his wife Wendy, who is also a music photographer).

David Redfern built a library of jazz and rock photographs over his 50-year career and continued his art well into his later life.

Redfern was introduced to photography when he enlisted in the National Service, and his first photographs were portraits of soldiers sent back to their families. Following his service, he worked in a Kodak film factory and continued to practice taking photos and working with cameras. But it wasn’t until one of his musician roommates asked him to take photos of his band at a jazz club that he found his passion.

Redfern pursued jazz photography as a hobby at first, but soon enough he found himself in BBC studios as an onset photographer, shooting pop acts like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles on such TV shows as Ready Steady Go and Thank Your Lucky Stars. In 1967, he followed The Beatles on The Magical Mystery Tour, a Christmas TV special (and album) that followed the band on a psychedelic bus trip. The tour started off with over 50 photographers, but Redfern was only one of two that made it to the last day.

Naturally, the exposure of the British invasion brought Redfern success and attention as a photographer. Redfern established himself on both continents by traveling to the U.S. in the ‘60s. As the acts got bigger and bigger, Redfern found himself no longer in the dark intimate jazz clubs, but in arenas in front of guitar-wielding rock stars. In 1969, Redfern photographed Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert was filmed, and so the lighting was bright and cinematic, which made the photos particularly stunning. The film, however, was never released, but Redfern’s photos of Hendrix are just some of many stunning shots in his collection. Backstage at the Royal Albert Hall he once took Frank Sinatra’s passport photo after being the official live photographer for a week of shows at the venue. (The negatives of the passport photo had to be handed over to Sinatra’s people when the photos were delivered.) “David, you’re one helluva photographer, keep shooting!” Sinatra reportedly remarked.

Redfern established himself as a mainstay in the music industry. As the peak of rock and roll faded, he returned back to the jazz clubs as the genre was his main passion. “David, to me, is probably the greatest jazz photographer in the world,” legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich once said. Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon once delivered the compliment, “You know Redfern. He’s the Cartier-Bresson of jazz,” referring to the famous French photographer considered the father of photojournalism.

Redfern established his own photo library, Redferns, that represented his photos and those of other music photographers and licensed them to media outlets and publishers. Redferns was sold to Getty Images in 2008.

He produced two photo books of his work. In 1980 Pete Townsend’s Eel Pie Company published David Redfern’s Jazz Album, a collection of his jazz photos up until that point. In 1999 his second book, The Unclosed Eye, was published. It encompassed his career thus far, including both his jazz and rock photos (as well as other genres of music). The book was designed by Storm Thorgerson, who designed all of Pink Floyd’s album covers (as well as working with Led Zeppelin, Genesis, and others). A second expanded edition of the book was released in 2005.

In 1995 three of his photos-Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Thelonius Monk-were chosen for U.S. postage stamps. In 2007 Redfern received “The Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography” in New York. This year he won the Services to Jazz Award at the 2014 Parliamentary Jazz Awards, which was presented by members of the British Parliament who also belong to the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.

In 2012 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but continued working through his illness. David Redfern was survived by three children (Mark, Bridget, and Simon), five grandchildren (Eleanor, Isobel, Lara, Domenik, and Rose), two brothers (Paul and John), two former wives (Kate and Mary), and his wife Suzy (whom he was married to when he passed).

He died at his second home in France, but was formally based in London.

More of Redfern’s work can be found at his website: www.davidredfern.com


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