The “25 Years of Jazz Photography David Sinclair Exhibition” starts at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 November 2015. Although many of the more recent images on show were shot in colour, due to media requirements over the last few years when David was providing pictures for the national press, his preferred medium has always been black and white photographs. This harks back to his early years of 35mm cameras in the darkly lit jazz clubs of Soho, and South West London.
Black and White Style
Many admirers of his work over the years have remarked on David’s signature, often grainy, black and white style, particularly from his older, film, images. Several of these are on the wall at the Exhibition (other images are shown here so as to not preview the show in advance).
Photographers like David, who started with 35mm film cameras, had to shoot more by instinct to reflect a single moment. Doing this in dark, often smoky clubs, he learned to use any available light. Then it was up to development in the darkroom to bring out the images.
Working with Musicians
To quote one well known musician and subject of David’s photography at the Royal Albert Hall Exhibition this month:
“Most photographers these days seem to be there for ages taking hundreds of shots with their digital equipment and massive lenses, in the hope of capturing one decent image by chance. David is different. He comes in, works out where he wants to be, takes three or four shots which capture the moment, and then he is gone, or just comes and talks with us. He is the musicians’ photographer.” (Danny Thompson).
Often, David uses shades, reflections and even smoke to provide contrasts in his images, and he has continued this into digital photography. Black and white jazz photography remains his preferred medium to record the music he loves, and shine light on the friends he has got to know through his work.
Light and Shadow
Of all his photographs, the one that best shows his use of light and shadow is his popular film image of Andy Sheppard, taken in Ronnie Scott’s. At first sight this is an image of simple black and white contrasts, but on closer examination there is tremendous detail on Andy’s hands holding his sax, as well as of the instrument itself. This is not the detail of every facial line and wrinkle which today’s multi-million pixel photographers show so well in black and white, but a simpler contrast which makes the musician stand out rather than the photograph. That is David’s unique style.
That’s Jazz Folks
Around two thirds of the photographs on display at the Royal Albert Hall this month are black and white. Of the images shown here, only the Andy Sheppard one is in the Exhibition, but around a third of the images at the Royal Albert Hall are from the 35mm era. David is hardly the first photographer to be heard saying “I wish I could just go back to using my old Leica” and maybe he will in the future. There is something to be said for the shadow and darkness of old photography, just as of jazz itself.