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Francis Wolffs bilder samlet

Francis Wolffs rolle som fotograf og smarbeidspartner for Alfred Lion i historien om Blue Note er vel velkjent for salt peanuts* lesere. I dag fikk vi følgende gledelige melding fra Michael Cuscuna og Mosaic Records.

 

August 7 2019 — AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS

In the early ‘90s, Charlie Lourie and I took on a new and surprising enterprise with the acquisition of Francis Wolff’s photography of the Blue Note recording sessions. The photography would be a perfect complement to the Mosaic Records Box Sets. We flew out to Ruth Lion’s home in San Diego ready with two steamer trunks we could fill with dozens of disintegrating manila envelopes containing the negatives and contact sheets of Francis’s photography.

Jazz photography had always been a passion for both Charlie and me. And now, as Mosaic Records releases and booklets demanded visualization, we were ready. Mosaic Images became the home for the Blue Note Sessions Archive.

My wife Lisa, herself an artist, photographer and master printer, set about devising a database and a system to preserve this rare and untouched and hidden material. With the exception of a few images used as cover art for the Blue Note releases, these images had neither been seen. It took two years of weekday nights to sort out and protect the images, hanging them in acid free negative carriers with matching folders for the contact sheets.

Charlie, Oscar Schneider, Fred Seibert and I would spend weekends pouring over the vast amount of unseen photographic gems, figuring out exactly what to do with this largely unpublished archive.

What we found was not only a thorough documentation of the sessions for Blue Note Records, one of the most important labels in modern jazz. We also discovered that Francis Wolff was a master photographer by any measure. His ability to light, frame and capture a shot was astonishing. He was a master of perfectly composed candid portraits. His talent in that regard has been likened to that of the great portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, but unlike Karsh who had an afternoon to pose his subjects, Frank had to work around the actual creation of the music, with only an instant to capture the depth and soul of the moment.

In 1995, Rizzoli published our first book of Wolff photos “The Blue Note Years – The Jazz Photography Of Francis Wolff”.  Rizzoli International Publications, had our first exhibit at Chartwell Books in New York and we began selling silver gelatin prints through the Mosaic Records website. Never-before-seen session photos began to grace Mosaic booklets and dozens of Blue Note CDs. More books, more exhibitions and even a few poster runs would follow over the next 20 years.

Charlie died on December 31, 2000 and Mosaic Images lost the partner who inspired the curating of the collection. But in 2018, Lisa and I committed ourselves to unveiling this collection on its own website. A year in the making, here it is at last.

The Mosaic Images website, is now operational, where the most famous Blue Note session photographs are available to the entire world. Over 2400 black & white images and over 300 color images are available for licensing in publications, album and book packaging, documentaries, films, and more. In addition, over 90 of the best and most famous images are available for sale as fine art prints in three  sizes.

The site is full of features like the Mosaic Jazz Gazette, the history of Mosaic Records, Mosaic Images and a biography of Francis Wolff. There are also links to a number of video features on Blue Note’s graphics and Wolff’s photography as well as interviews about the history of the Blue Note Label.

It is with great pleasure and pride that we finally present the work of Francis Wolff with all of the attention and depth that it deserves.

Michael Cuscuna