Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2013/09/12

[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]

Subject: [Leica] lee tanner has passed away
From: scleroplex at (scleroplex)
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2013 09:53:19 -0400

Lee Tanner; his lens captured pulse, personalities of jazz
By Bryan Marquard <> |  GLOBE

  SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

[image: Lee Tanner?s images bring to life Boston?s jazz clubs from the

Lee Tanner?s images bring to life Boston?s jazz clubs from the 1960s.

As a boy in the late 1930s, living with his mother and two aunts in
Roxbury, Lee Tanner <> heard the music and
musicians he would bring into focus with his camera a quarter century later.

?I first tuned into jazz by a chance twist of the radio dial,? he wrote in
the introduction to ?Images of Jazz,? a 1996 collection of his photographs.

Camera in hand, Mr. Tanner spent nights in the 1960s photographing
musicians at a variety of Boston venues, some famous and some now fading
from the memories of all but the most faithful fans. Chet Baker, movie-star
handsome, holds his trumpet at The Jazz Workshop in a 1966 photo.
Thelonious Monk?s hands address the piano keys in a series of four close-up
shots in the WGBH-TV studios in 1968. Miles Davis plays a muted trumpet at
Symphony Hall the same year.

?I go for the spontaneity of the moment,? Mr. Tanner told the Globe in
1996. ?What I?m looking for is the drama, and whether it?s excitement or
repose really depends on what shows up. Nothing in the book is a posed
studio picture. Even the pictures that look posed were just caught at the

Mr. Tanner, a metallurgist and scientist who had worked in laboratories
from Boston to California, died of complications from Alzheimer?s disease
Saturday in Mark Twain Convalescent Hospital in San Andres, Calif. He was
82 and lived in Sonora, Calif.
[image: Miles Davis, Symphony Hall 1968]


Miles Davis, Symphony Hall 1968

?In all of his photographs, Lee Tanner makes vivid the sheer energy of jazz
? the life force,? critic and columnist Nat Hentoff wrote in the
introduction to ?Images of Jazz,? adding that ?Tanner?s gift is knowing the
moment at which the musician tells his own story ? and not only in notes.?

Mr. Tanner?s time in Boston was comparatively brief: several years during
childhood in the 1930s and early ?40s and slightly more than a dozen years
as an adult, mostly in the 1960s. The photographs he shot, though,
enshrined musicians and venues that were part of Boston?s jazz history.

For a couple of years in the 1960s, WGBH-TV ran a live show simply called
?Jazz,? which evolved into ?Mixed Bag,? a roster of musicians as eclectic
as the name suggests. Mr. Tanner coproduced ?Mixed Bag? for two years with
David Atwood, who also directed the show and is now an independent producer
and director.

Mr. Tanner had forged relationships with musicians while rubbing shoulders
with them in clubs. ?I could literally get on top of the musicians to
photograph them,? he told the Globe. That intimacy helped him coax many
musicians into the TV studio.
[image: Duke Ellington, Newport Jazz Festival 1962]


Duke Ellington, Newport Jazz Festival 1962

?Lee, because of his photography, knew these groups and went after them to
get them on the show,? Atwood recalled. ?Lee was great. He was wonderful
with the groups. He was wonderful to work with.?

?Mixed Bag? went off the air after two years, a victim of low ratings, but
Mr. Tanner kept shooting. At WGBH, the studio lights afforded him the
opportunity to add nuance to the shadows falling on the musicians. In
clubs, advancements in film quality allowed his camera, without a
flashbulb, to capture images that could not have been shot a couple of
decades earlier.

?For me, available-light photography was preferable to that of using
auxiliary lighting sources,? he told Jerry Jazz Musician in a2002

Ambient light ?brought life to the images,? Mr. Tanner said, and ?the
movement and slightly out-of-focus, grainy quality all added to the
emotional impact of the work.? He added that ?when a musician really got
into something special, I was often able to capture it. That is what
brought great pleasure to the work. It essentially was an improvisation in
the visual that went along with the improvisation of the music.?

Born in New York City, Mr. Tanner was the only child of Vladimir Chenkoff
and Enid Tanner. His mother was a milliner and his father was an artist who
created posters for the movies of directors Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, and
Howard Hawkes. They divorced when Mr. Tanner was young and he moved with
his mother to Boston.

?My exposure to live jazz was at the downtown RKO Boston theater,? he wrote
in the ?Images of Jazz? introduction. ?I would pack a lunch so that I could
spend the whole day there, watching show after show with delight.?

A job at Lord & Taylor took mother and son back to New York, where Mr.
Tanner graduated from Stuyvesant High School and from New York University
with a bachelor?s degree in engineering. He spent two years doing research
in the US Army and graduated with a master?s in metallurgy and materials
science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. Jobs took him to
Chicago and to Boston, ?where the jazz scene was bustling,? he wrote.

There was Connolly?s Stardust Room in Roxbury, and The Jazz Workshop and
Paul?s Mall on Boylston Street. Jazz even found its way into the Combat
Zone. ?There was a sudden clampdown for a period in 1963 on all of the
strip joints,? he recalled in the 1996 Globe interview. ?For about six
months, the clubs had jazz bands alternating with strippers who didn?t
really strip. . . . When I came in with my camera the first time, I
remember them telling me ?You can?t take pictures of the girls.? ?

?I look at photographs he shot with this Mamiya twin lens reflex, and you
figure, he was hand-holding this in these dark clubs,? said his daughter
Lisa Tanner, a photographer <> in Los
Angeles. ?It?s pretty amazing he got the shots he did.?

Mr. Tanner?s first marriage, to Lucia Stone, ended in divorce.

In the early 1970s, his scientific work took him to laboratories in
California, where he lived the rest of his life.

In addition to his daughter, he leaves his wife, Linda Brandt Boam Tanner;
another daughter, Dina Hausman of Trumbull, Conn.; and a granddaughter,
along with stepchildren and step-grandchildren.

In 2010, the Los Angeles-based Lucie Foundation, which celebrates
achievement in photography <>, honored Mr. Tanner
for documentary 

Down Beat magazine began publishing his work in 1958. His photos also
appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, American Photo, and Popular
Photography, along with the jackets for record albums and CDs.

Mr. Tanner published three additional books: ?Dizzy,? in 1994, which marked
the 75th year of trumpeter and composer John Birks Gillespie; ?Images of
the Blues? in 1998; and ?The Jazz Image: Masters of Jazz Photography,? in

?First and foremost he was a fan of the music, and that?s why I think he
gravitated toward photography,? his daughter Lisa said. ?He loved jazz