Considered one of the most prominent jazz photographers, Herman Leonard (1923-2010) was born the son of Romanian immigrants in Allentown, Pennsylvania and first picked up a camera at the age of nine. Shy by nature, Leonard found photography to be a way of connecting with those around him—from his high school peers to famous figures like Harry Truman and Martha Graham, whom he photographed as an assistant to master Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh. Later assignments would take him to East Asia, where in the 1950s he served as Marlon Brando's personal photographer, and Paris, where he worked as a correspondent for Playboy and Time magazines. He established a studio in the heart of Greenwich Village in 1949, and with his passion for the music and kind respect for those he photographed, he was accorded an unprecedented inside view of the New York jazz scene.
Leonard's works are found in numerous public collections including the Smithsonian Institute and Lincoln Center. While his New Orleans studio and at least 8,000 original prints were destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, his complete collection of over 35,000 negatives survived and have been fully archived through a grant from the Grammy Foundation.