THE ARRAY OF IMAGES Frank Stewart has made over the course of his career is dizzying. He’s photographed African American culture in its many forms—art, food, dance, and music, jazz in particular. He’s made portraits of artists, shot barbecue in the South and Midwest, and captured the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

He photographed a mass baptism in the streets of East Harlem; Three hooded Klansmen striding single file across the grass at a Jackson, Miss., rally; and three young camels lounging on a barren patch of grassy terrain in Mali. He’s documented energetic street scenes, majestic landscapes, and abstract compositions.

 


After the show: FRANK STEWART, “The Bow, Modena,” 1996 (inkjet print, 40 x 60 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Born 1949 in Nashville, Tenn., Stewart was raised in Memphis and Chicago and has spent his entire career based in New York. His practice is centered around African American culture and the black experience throughout the diaspora. His roots in the segregated South, life-long love of music, and studies with Roy DeCarava and Gary Winogrand, are reflected in his work.

A member of the Kamoinge photography collective, he approaches photography as a true art form. It’s evident in the way he sees his subjects. His use of lighting. The manner in which he composes and frames his images. His camera choices and whether he works with color or black-and-white film, or shoots digitally.

Stewart is best known for his jazz photographs. One of the most memorable: Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra on a grand stage in Modena, Italy, bowing in unison after a performance. He got his start working on the road, touring clubs with jazz pianist and composer Ahmad Jamal in the mid-1970s. Stewart had just graduated from The Cooper Union.

In the years since, he’s probably photographed nearly every American jazz musician of serious regard: Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Lionel Hampton, Roy Hargrove, Marcus Roberts, and Marsalis. He’s also photographed up-and-coming musicians. Vocalists, too. On and off stage. The list is endless.

For the past three decades, Stewart has served as senior staff photographer at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Marsalis leads the orchestra and serves as artistic director. Stewart travels around the world with Marsalis and the other musicians. Stewart says he and Marsalis are like brothers.

The relentless itinerary has given him the opportunity to photograph throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, making images in countless locales such as Berlin, Mexico City, and at the Door of No Return in Cape Coast, Ghana.

Forthcoming in 2023, Frank Stewart’s first comprehensive museum exhibition will unfold thematically and chronologically, across six decades from the early 1960s to the present.


FRANK STEWART, You and Me (Youth in Harlem Series), 1978 (silver gelatin print, 8 x 12 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

MORE RECENTLY, Stewart has been collaborating with curator Ruth Fine who is organizing a career retrospective of his work. Envisioned as a “visual biography,” the photographer’s first comprehensive museum exhibition will unfold thematically and chronologically, across six decades from the early 1960s to the present.

In her description of the show, Fine states that it will highlight Stewart’s “concern with his cultural roots, far-reaching world-view, distinctive attention to formal concerns rooted in the study of painting, sculpture, and art history, and a deep investigation of the expressive potential of photographic processes.” Featuring about 125 images and related materials, the retrospective is expected to open in 2023 and tour several museums.

Fine spent her career at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where she served as curator of modern prints and drawings and special projects in modern art (1972-2012). In 2003, she mounted “The Art of Romare Bearden” at the National Gallery of Art. Featuring about 130 works, the retrospective is the most comprehensive exhibition of Bearden’s art.

The photographer and curator were introduced when Fine was working on the Bearden exhibition. Stewart met Bearden in 1975 and became his friend and driver, spending thousands of hours with the artist. Separated in age by four decades, they bonded over their Southern roots and love of art and music. Stewart photographed Bearden and published a book documenting his life over the 13-year period until his death.

Frank Stewart met Romare Bearden in 1975 and became his friend and driver, spending thousands of hours with the artist.

In anticipation of Stewart’s museum retrospective, a couple of smaller shows have been presented, demonstrating the depth and breadth of his practice.

Last fall, “The Sound of My Soul: Frank Stewart’s Life in Jazz,” a robust selection of more than 80 jazz photographs spanning his career, was on view at Harvard University’s Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art.

“Time Capsule: Photographs by Frank Stewart” was a tight survey at Gallery Neptune & Brown in Washington, D.C. The show explored a variety of subjects and locations, from Havana, Abidjan, and Shanghai to Harlem, New Orleans, and Louisville.

Among the images on view was a 1976 portrait of artist Alma Thomas, printed for the first time in 2019. It was on display above a photograph of Bearden, standing knee deep in the ocean, circa 1977.

 


FRANK STEWART, “Morning Homework, Mamfe, Ghana,” 1997. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Alma Thomas,” 1976, printed 2019 (7 x 10 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

I INTERVIEWED STEWART last September. He was in a Boston hotel room during our morning phone call, with Fine and his studio assistant on hand listening in. That afternoon, he was in conversation with Fred Moten at Cooper Gallery. The poet/scholar asked the photographer about his work and how he got started, fueling a dialogue about the segregated South and the segregated North, music, and intra-race colorism.

In May, I checked back in with Stewart to see how he was spending his time in isolation in the wake of the COVID-19 virus. (This was before the police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests shifted the nation’s attention.)

“I’ve taken this opportunity to do a book that I thought I was going to do when I retired since I have this time right now,” he said, speaking by phone from his home in New Rochelle, an early coronavirus hot spot.

Titled “The Absence of Silence: The First 20 Years of Jazz at Lincoln Center,” the book will visually document the orchestra’s players and performances from 1990 to 2010.

Stewart has been going through 20 years of black-and-white negatives, printing as much as he can and culling from the prints to edit down his selections. When we spoke, he had settled on 60 images and expected to identify about 100 for the book project.

The shutdown surrounding the virus has brought travel and performances for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to a standstill, for now. “I was supposed to be in Russia. I was supposed to be Paris. I was supposed to be in London,” Stewart says.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, known as JALCO, stays on the road about eight months a year. “One year we circumnavigated the world twice in one calendar year, around 1995, 1996 something like that. We’d be gone for three weeks and maybe have a week off. Or we’d be gone for two months,” Stewart says.

“I got to see a lot of different countries, cities, hotels. In fact, I did a whole series just on hotel windows. It’s called The Window Series. I’m still doing it. But now it’s in color.”

The shutdown surrounding the virus has brought JALCO’s travel and performances to a standstill, for now, impacting Stewart’s work and completely altering his routine.

“Well, you know, I was supposed to be in Russia. I was supposed to be in Paris. I was supposed to be in London. Yeah. It’s definitely impeded our ability to go out and make money. That’s for sure,” says Stewart. He has the benefit of a salary, but says his compensation is reduced: “It’s not the same as if we were working full time.”

For the balance of our original conversation, Stewart spoke with Culture Type about jazz, the intersection of painting and photography, and how his approach to image making has evolved over the years. He also shared insights about specific photographs selected for the Cooper Gallery exhibition:

 


FRANK STEWART, “Self Portrait,” 2018. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

CULTURE TYPE: How has it been working with Ruth Fine on this project, going back and taking stock of your work and looking at the broad scope of people, places, and subjects that you’ve made images about over the years. Have you done that before, taking stock?

FRANK STEWART: I’ve never done that before, but it’s like if you’re in a car crash and your life flashes before you. It’s been kind of like that. My life is flashing before my eyes.

Is that a good thing?

It’s a good thing, you know, because some parts you forget about completely and some parts are very vivid.

What did you discover that you’d forgotten about?

You know. Nuance. Stuff at the Studio Museum. (Stewart was an artist-in-residence from 1975-76 and worked for the museum for 10 years.) People. Various people. Stuff like that.

Were you able to see things that were happening along those decades and years that you weren’t aware of? Your approach to some of the imagery, the progress, or when you started to have an interest in other things, such as the environmental work.

What happens is you’re a certain age when you take pictures and you don’t really know what you have until you revisit the image later in life. Then your aesthetics shift and you find out a lot of these pictures are actually interesting. That‘s what I’ve been finding. Some of these pictures that I would never have printed before are actually something that should be seen.

“What happens is you’re a certain age when you take pictures and you don’t really know what you have until you revisit the image later in life… Some of these pictures that I would never have printed before are actually something that should be seen.” — Frank Stewart


At a club called Bottom of the Gate, with Phineas’ childhood friend Jamil Nasser on bass. Phineas was my stepfather: FRANK STEWART, ”Phineas Newborn Junior,” circa 1970s (gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Hammond: B-3, 9th Ward, New Orleans,” 2006 (inkjet print, 26 7/8 x 33 3/8 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Your stepfather, jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., provided an up-close exposure to jazz. What about photography? How did you get attached to the medium? What led you to make a career out of it?

I started out painting and drawing because my mother was sort of a dilettante. She was a painter and seamstress. She was a sculptor and ceramicist. It started with her and we used to go out and draw together and paint together on easels. That kind of led to taking pictures to draw from. And then I would do a painting and it would take a couple of days to find out that it’s a disaster. But with photography, I had 36 images to find out that they were all disasters, quickly. That’s kind of how photography came into it.

Phineas was a photographer, too. He would go on tour and come back with all these images and we would project them, and it was just mesmerizing. Just the image of the photograph being projected on the screen. We would sit there for hours and look at the stuff he did. He had a Minox camera.

“Phineas was a photographer, too. He would go on tour and come back with all these images and we would project them, and it was just mesmerizing. Just the image of the photograph being projected on the screen. We would sit there for hours and look at the stuff he did.”
— Frank Stewart

What was mesmerizing to you? The idea that this image was captured and preserved that you could look at later or the quality or content of the images?

The whole thing. The fact that it changed and all of a sudden you had what he saw and what the camera saw in front of you. That whole thing. And that is still mesmerizing to me. Something I’m curious about is how reality changes through the medium.

Can you say more about that?

Well, you know, the thing that’s happening through the medium is your capturing light on surface, right?… That’s part of the intelligence of the medium. It’s that this is the best tool to capture light on surface. I mean that’s what it’s all about for me.

How has the transition to digital been for you? Are you still using film?

I still use regular color film, too. But my world is digital now, just because of work.

You do digital and film?

I do film for myself. Digital for work.

You started off at Middle Tennessee State University in 1968. Were you a photography major then or did you become a photography major when you transferred to Cooper Union?

I was taking pictures then, but I was on an athletic scholarship. I was a track runner, but I would go to Fisk where Robert Sengstacke and John Simmons were. Robert Sengstacke was teaching photography there and John Simmons was the lab technician. These are guys that I grew up with. Sengstacke’s family owned the Chicago Defender. It was the only black daily in the country at the time. During the summers I would come back and work with the paper and because of that I got a job working at Ebony after I got out of college.

You worked with David Driskell and did the behind the scenes photographs of his exhibition “Two Centuries of African American Art” organized at LACMA and Jack Whitten was a teacher of yours at Cooper Union. You also worked closely with Romare Bearden. How did visual art and these visual artists influence your path and your craft?

I spent 15 years with Bearden and we didn’t have formal sessions about aesthetics, but just being around him… I would have to take him to Yale one time for six months, once a month for six months, so he could teach. I would be in the room and I could just hear all the things he had to say and every now and then he would talk to me about what he did and how he structured his canvases and so forth. I got a lot from him just by osmosis and looking at the way he worked. How he stopped motion. His aesthetics were very static. Something like Mondrian. He broke up the frame. If you take people out of his frame, you’ve got a Mondrian.

“Every now and then [Romare Bearden] would talk to me about what he did and how he structured his canvases and so forth. I got a lot from him just by osmosis and looking at the way he worked. How he stopped motion. His aesthetics were very static… He broke up the frame. If you take people out of his frame, you’ve got a Mondrian. — Frank Stewart

 


FRANK STEWART, “Romie in the Ocean,” circa 1977, printed 2004 (20 x 13 1/4 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Clock of the Earth, Mamfe, Ghana,” 1998. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Some of what you heard from Bearden about how he captured an image has influenced how you capture images with photography?

I started dealing with the frame more after him—instead of just subject matter—how to construct a frame.

In the write up Ruth Fine did about the forthcoming retrospective, she talks about how the images aren’t cropped and how important the frame is to you and the composition.

I crop in the camera. What I see, I try to replicate in the camera.

Let’s talk about the jazz exhibition at Cooper Gallery and the photographs selected for the show. Tell me about some of the images that stand out and were important for you to include.

Where I am in the canon of all of this is I’m spanning the negative black-and-white era and this digital-age era. A lot of it is about the changing face of jazz right now. [The show] goes from my early black-and-white stuff, early 70s and 80s, up until the digital age took over. Up until now. There’s one in there from 2019. It’s the one of Wyclef Gordon (a trombone player, composer, and band leader).

You and Ruth did a walk-through of the exhibition recently, which is documented in a video. Tell me about being able to walk through and see all the work up. You talked about seeing the arc of technology of photography from digital to film, the black-and-white negative to digital. What about going from your early days of jazz being on the road with different people and then now with Lincoln Center, your artistic arc, and the people and subjects and places you’ve been to recording jazz?

The thing about it is I still shoot on the street, too. I still do my own work with negative color and large format negative color but one thing helps the other thing. It’s like having a life class as a painter and you paint portraits. Drawing in life class eight hours a day helps you paint that portrait better. What I do on the street helps me recognize what to shoot on the gig with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on the road. One helps the other.

“What I do on the street helps me recognize what to shoot on the gig with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on the road. One helps the other.”
— Frank Stewart

When you shoot on the street are you shooting things that strike your interest, people you see on the street, portraits. What are you drawn to?

For years my photography was culturally motivated dealing with the culture—music, food, the dance, the mores, the polyrhythms of everyday African Americans on the street in various places. Weddings, parades, all kinds of things. That was driven because of growing up in a culture. Now, I’m all over the world and I go to places like China and I really don’t know what’s going on. But I know what’s going on in front of me. So I’m more concerned about the frame now, than I am the subject matter.

When do you think you had that transition?

It’s been gradual since I started traveling with Jazz at Lincoln Center. The stuff I do on the street, it’s like sketching. They are called drawings. They are done very fast and quickly. I recognize something and there’s a frame there and I shoot it quick and I move on. It’s like sketching, but it’s done with a camera, instead of a pad.

When you do a sketch or a study for a painting you can draw what you envision you will be painting. But with photography you are capturing a moving situation that you don’t directly control. How does your experience making images on the street influence what you end up doing with your more institutional photography or at Lincoln Center?

What happens with the drawings, what happens with the sketching, is that you see things that you are drawn to that repeat themselves all the time. It may be a gesture. It may be a person. It may be a color, or something like that. You take a picture and you remember it. You have a record of it so that when you see all of these things line up, you’ll know how to take it later on.

 


Baptism in the Street: FRANK STEWART, “God’s Trombones, Harlem,” 2009 (inkjet print mounted on aluminum, 48 x 60 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Let’s talk about some specific photographs, get the backstory and your thoughts reflecting on them. The first one is “God’s Trombones.” This is an amazing photograph. It’s interesting because it’s in 2009 and even though it’s in color and the people as individuals look contemporary, it feels very historic. It was part of the postcard series at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Had you been to and shot this annual event other years or was this the first time you photographed it?

That was the first time I shot it and the last time I shot it. But I knew about it from years before. I have some friends that have shot it over the years. Some of them shoot it every year. That was my first year to shoot it and that wasn’t digital. That was film. 6 x 7 format medium format. But it’s scanned digitally and it’s printed from the scan. I think it’s historical in the fact that somebody is baptizing 100 people, 200 people at once with a trombone choir serenading them as they get baptized.

What did you think visually when you saw it because it is such an amazing landscape of people and monochrome color?

Something like that, it’s always interesting to try to make sense visually out of it.… How do you orchestrate something like that in a frame and make it visually correct? For lack of a better term.

Where were you. You seem like you are up higher than they are?

I climbed up on a dumpster and I was standing on garbage. So I was a little bit higher than everybody.

What about the title? You use Langston Hughes’s words. Tell me about the connection between what Hughes was talking about and what you wanted to…

No, that’s Johnson (James Weldon Johnson).

Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, yes. Johnson.

Well, that was a poem. It was apropos for that photograph. You know. God’s Trombones. You have all these trombones in the center, driving the aesthetics of it and the people are getting baptized so you have trombones and something to do with God, so God’s Trombones.

 


Christ-like figure in Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center: FRANK STEWART, “Miles in the Green Room,” 1981 (inkjet print, 33 1/2 x 49 inches. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Let’s go to another one. How about “Miles in the Green Room”?

That’s an interesting one. Miles Davis is this looming jazz figure in the jazz world. You know he may have changed the course of music four or five times during his lifetime. This was him coming back from an illness. He laid off for maybe three or four years. This was his debut concert at Avery Fisher Hall. I think it was for the Cool Jazz Festival. And this was a job for Ebony. I’m shooting off of somebody else’s flash.

The flash in the left corner? His flash is creating that shadow behind him, too.

Right. There’s a phalanx of photographers on the left and one of them is shooting, he’s got a Norman 400 and he’s shooting. He’s shooting rapidly. I timed his flash to go off and Miles is standing above the crowd so he kind of looks Christ-like and represents to me how he loomed over the jazz world.

“Miles is standing above the crowd so he kind of looks Christ-like and represents to me how he loomed over the jazz world.” — Frank Stewart

You talked about making a transition from focusing on subjects to focusing on framing. You also mentioned a bit about abstraction, so I wanted to look at Jazz in Abstract Reality from ’92. Can you tell me about that image?

I’m starting to deal with the frame in that image. And that’s got a lot jammed into it. There’s a big window there. There’s a big mirror there. You can see a lot more of the room in that mirror. I’m just breaking up the frame with all the rectangles and circles and squares and putting people in the middle of all of that.

Is this before or after a performance?

This is at a photo shoot.

It’s interesting because you have musicians positioned all over the room sort of randomly but then, in contrast, there is a gallery wall of framed portraits positioned in an ordered grid pattern, in a more static way, on the wall. You have a lot of different things going on.

It’s a formal breaking up of space. You know like what Bearden did. You see how static the lines are, right? You take the people out of there and it was just space being broken up.

There are three sections in the image. To the left of the mirror and the right of the mirror.

Right. Right. Foreground. Background.


The remaining members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra fused with Wynton’s Septet to form the original JALC Orchestra: FRANK STEWART, “Jazz and Abstract Reality (aka Lincoln Center Orchestra, New York City),” 1992 (gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Yeah. And so you talk about how these people represent the fusion of Ellington and Wynton’s orchestras. I assume this is Wynton here at the center. Is that him?

Yeah.

And then it looks like the man on the right might be an older gentleman. Was he from Ellington’s group?

Yeah. There are three people in the frame from Ellington’s group. The guy with the trombone is Britt Woodman. The guy with the saxophone is Norris Turney. Then there’s a singer that you can only see in the mirror, Milt Grayson. They were all from Ellington’s orchestra. Surviving members of Ellington’s orchestra.

The titles that you have are great. Sometimes they are direct and descriptive. Other times they have a deeper meaning or cultural reference. How did you name this one?

This is so abstract to me. And that title came from an Oliver Nelson album called “Blues in Abstract Reality” (“Blues and the Abstract Truth”). It’s a great album. It’s one of the greatest albums in jazz.

All these years you’ve been photographing jazz. I’m curious about the nexus of the two—your artistry and craft and your relationship to the music and so many figures in the jazz community.

That’s a long… that answer would be half a day, but I’ll try to condense it.

Okay.

I grew up in a world where it was music all the time. I came to New York first with my stepfather in ’57 and he was a jazz musician. There was jazz all around all the time and he used to take me to the clubs with him. The Five Spot. The Vanguard. He was playing opposite Count Basie at Birdland, at the time. I was a little guy just hanging out with him. It would be all night sometimes. I had my suit on and I felt like one of the cats, although I couldn’t play anything.

“I grew up in a world where it was music all the time. I came to New York first with my stepfather in ’57 and he was a jazz musician. There was jazz all around all the time and he used to take me to the clubs with him. The Five Spot. The Vanguard. He was playing opposite Count Basie at Birdland, at the time.” — Frank Stewart

 


Wycliffe Gordon in Savannah: FRANK STEWART, “Coopty,” 2019 (inkjet print, 8 1/2 x 11). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

How old were you then when you’d hang out all night?

Seven, eight… I got pictures with me and Count Basie at Birdland when I was eight.

Let’s talk about the most recent image in the exhibition “Coopty.”

That was late at night. Like one or two in the morning and he had just come from a friend of his wife’s funeral and he was dedicating this song to the friend and he was recounting what the friend was going through by his wife dying. He was singing. He was crying, too. It was a very emotional moment.

This is like one or two in the morning at a local club in Savannah?

It’s at a music festival.

Was this something he was scheduled to perform at or was it impromptu?

He was leading the jam session.

What was the name of the festival?

The Savannah Music Festival.

Do you know him?

Yeah. I’ve been knowing him since he was 18. He was one of the first members of the septet. The Wynton (Marsalis) Septet when I started doing a book on Wynton called “Sweet Swing Blues on the Road.”

What about “Etienne,” the portrait used to promote the exhibition?

Well Etienne (Charles) I’ve been knowing since he was a student at Julliard. In fact, I photographed his senior recital. He’s really coming up in the jazz world. He just got a Guggenheim. He’s doing work in Africa and the Caribbean. He’s following the diaspora, the beats of the West African slaves that inhabited all of these islands. He’s a trumpet player. He’s not a percussionist. But he can play.

Where is this taken?

That was taken at the Savannah Music Festival as well.

That must be a good festival. You go there annually?

I am the photographer for the festival. I’ve been doing that… This was my 18th year.

 


Etienne Charles is a rising star in the jazz galaxy: FRANK STEWART, “Etienne,” 2017 (inkjet print, 22 x 17). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

This is an interesting photograph. It might not have had the same impact if he had on a black suit and some regular glasses…

(Stewart laughs) Right.

It’s great positioning. An action shot and so much emotion.

And his hat… Which is his signature.

Did you have, I don’t know, 30 images around this same moment and this is the one you picked? How did that work?

This kind of jumps out at you doesn’t it?

Yeah. It does, for sure.

That’s what happens. It will jump out at you. If they jump out at you, they’re good.

Ruth Fine: Victoria, one of the things I’ve learned, if this is useful to you, is that when Frank was younger he might do 30 shots of a given scene and end up liking one of them. But as he’s grown up, he more often than not can do it with one or two shots… with much less variety going on. There’s less needing to do 30 to get one now, then there was 40 years ago.

Ruth to Frank: Do you think that’s true?

Frank: That’s true.

Is there an image of a woman in the show that you think really stands out or you really want to talk about and tell me something about?

I think Keisha at Lolas.

 


Lola’s was a restaurant on 22nd street in New York, and sometimes they would have music: FRANK STEWART, “Keisha at Lola’s,” 1986 (gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

It’s sort of dark and she’s leaning back and there’s a bit of movement in it.

I’m working not only with the subject matter, but I’m working with the medium and trying to stretch the medium out. I’m using a flash like a brush. The light of a flash like a brush and I am bouncing it off the floor, so you get a different perspective of where the light comes from. There’s motion and I am stopping the motion with the light. And she fits into that space. She’s bending over backwards and she’s filling up that space.

“I’m working not only with the subject matter, but I’m working with the medium and trying to stretch the medium out. I’m using a flash like a brush. The light of a flash like a brush and I am bouncing it off the floor, so you get a different perspective of where the light comes from.” — Frank Stewart

You talk about this photograph like you are literally painting a picture. Was this a hired shoot or shooting for yourself?

Just shooting for myself.

How did you know that this was going to be something that you were going to approach more artistically vs. maybe more straightforward? Was it just because of what you were seeing when you were watching her? How did that happen?

At this point I’m experimenting with the medium anyway. I don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know how it’s going to change through the medium. This is negative black and white. It’s not digital, so you can’t see it right away. I don’t know what I’m going to get until I get into the dark room. That’s a whole other gestation there.

 


FRANK STEWART, “Easter Sunday,” 1976 (gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Ahmad Jamal,” 2013 (inkjet print, 30 x 30 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

Do you have anything you want to tell me about the Cooper Gallery exhibition or your jazz photography that we haven’t already discussed?

No, no. Except that Ahmad Jamal was the first one to take me on the road when I was a young man.

Yes. And that was your first experience photographing jazz on the road.

Yes. That was the first time being on the road and it was eye opening. Being on the road with these seasoned jazz musicians.

How was it eye opening?

Just to see what they go through. What goes into putting somebody onstage at 8 o’clock every night. How you got to get them there, and all their equipment there, and all the characters that surround jazz. There’s a lot of characters that surround jazz music. A lot of characters come to hear jazz music.

How did that time compare with what you do now, when you are on the road with Wynton Marsalis?

Well, I’m the seasoned guy on the road now.

Do you think you’re considered one of the characters now?

I hope not. CT

 

“The Sound of My Soul: Frank Stewart’s Life in Jazz” was on view at Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 16-Dec. 13, 2019 View exhibition brochure

“Time Capsule: Photographs by Frank Stewart” was on view at Gallery Neptune & Brown, Washington, D.C., Nov. 23, 2019-Jan. 11, 2020 View images

 

WATCH Frank Stewart in conversation with Fred Moten at Cooper Gallery, Sept. 19, 2019

 


FRANK STEWART, “George in the Doorway,” 1969, printed 2019 (gelatin silver print, 24 x 18 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Klan Rally, Jackson, Mississippi,” 1981 (gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Yokohama,” 2004, printed 2019 (pigment print, 18 x 22 3/4 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, From The Window Series: “Louisville,” 1998 (inkjet print on aluminum). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Smoke and the Lovers, Hawkins Grill,” 1992, printed 2013 (chromogenic print, 20 x 30 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Abstract Color, Brooklyn,” circa 2002. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Sounds in Motion,” 1976. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Goree Island Painter (aka Slave Castle Back),” 2007. | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Mutes,” 1990 (gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 


FRANK STEWART, “Circle in the Square,” 2005, printed 2019 (pigment print, 18 x 22 3/8 inches). | © Frank Stewart, Courtesy the artist

 

BOOKSHELF
Frank Stewart has published a few titles. “Romare Bearden” by Stewart is a fully illustrated chronicle of his time with the legendary artist. “Sweet Swing Blues on the Road: A Year with Wynton Marsalis and His Septet” and “Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country” feature Stewart’s images on the road. In addition, the exhibition catalogs “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” and “The Art of Romare Bearden” document important retrospectives organized by curator Ruth Fine.

 

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