The world says goodbye to one of it’s most talented music photographers after the recent passing of David Redfern, aged 78. It was deeply saddening to hear this news, knowing of David’s battle with cancer over the past two years. We met when David had given a talk about his life’s work, five decades of music photography including the British and American Jazz, Blues, Rock and Pop scenes. His speciality was photographing festivals such as Newport Jazz Festival, between Boston and New York, and documenting legendary music venues such as Ronnie Scotts in Soho, London where he photographed Ella Fitzgerald and many more greats.
In 1995 three of his photos-Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Thelonius Monk-were chosen for U.S. postage stamps. His breadth of work went from being Frank Sinatra’s tour photographer to working with current coolest of the cool bands such as Arcade Fire. A number of decades ago David set up his own photography agency Redfern and then sold it to Getty Images in 2008, reserving rights to his favourite 1000 images for sale as prints. The talk was part of the Dobells Jazz Record Shop exhibition at CHELSEA Space, London, in May 2013.
The exhibition of an archive of items from the legendary record shop contained a number of David’s images of the Jazz scene and it’s musicians from the 60’s. After the talk we went to The Morpeth Arms pub and had a great chat with David about his life’s adventures as an international music photographer. He was joined by his charming and loving wife Susy Reed fashion entrepreneur who creates fabulous textile prints with David through his images.
These three image were made whilst we walked the short distance of one short street from CHELSEA Space to the pub. Later on David had told me that he hadn’t had his portrait made by many people. I was transfixed by David’s spirit just as he was by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone or Johnny Cash when he photographed them. Shortly afterwards I got in touch to offer David and Susy some prints as a gift in return for the wonderful and inspirational evening we’d shared. We arranged to meet for lunch in west London near David’s home but unfortunately David wasn’t well enough on the day. I knew he was going through some very tough chemotherapy but was being ever so strong in fighting it always staying philosophical and positive.
We crossed paths again whilst David was showing his work at the Royal Festival Hall in London and I was struck by his determination for business as usual. Sunday lunch and the gift of my humble snaps was mentioned again but when I called to arrange it David had moved to his second home in France to take advantage of a better healthcare system there. It was there a few months after, in the gentle loving care of his wife Suzy that David lost his fight with cancer, but he lived his life to full right to the end. It’s clear from David’s summer newsletter on his website that he was still enthralled and electrified by his beloved music scene and the gift he had bestowed upon him as a photographer.
He spent four days at the Vienne Jazz festival, in the front of stage pit, shooting the great Buddy Guy and many more. Then two days in Juan les Pins, with Imelda May, Joss Stone to name but a few. David was planning travel and exhibitions right to the end. To quote him “Keep the faith and live every day to the full, you just never know…….”
This week sees David honoured in many of the top international media including a Rolling Stone gallery where you can see his greatest photos of 1960s rock royalty, The Guardian gallery and the Under the Radar Mag feature. You can also have a look at David Redfern’s website which includes Suzy Reed’s fashion brand. You can also purchase David Redfern’s book.
CHELSEA Space at Chelsea College of Arts, Millbank, London is run by the very talented artist, curator and more, Donald Smith, also Chair of Chelsea Arts Club Trust. Thanks to Donald for organising this and many other great shows which bring such splendid culture together for celebration. My memories of the high spirits shared that evening will last forever.