Discovering and Preserving the Historic Photography of Ted Williams
We were friends and business associates of the late Ted Williams, one of the first great photojournalists and African-American photographers. Ted’s work is a national treasure.
From the late 1940’s through the 1970’s he was one of America’s leading jazz and blues photographers. Ted learned his trade on the street and in the jazz clubs surrounding Chicago’s Maxwell Street during those four decades. He was well known for taking candid, behind-the-scenes pictures capturing legendary musicians while on tour. Ted estimated he took more than 90,000 photographs during his career, most of which have never been published or seen by the public.
These photographs comprise a world-class photographic archive that includes portraits of hundreds of jazz pioneers including Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Hank Mobley, Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington, Count Bassie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, to name a few. The collection also documents African American life in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and the Civil Rights Movement with many public and private images of Dr. Martin Luther King.
This remarkable collection needs assistance. The original negatives and photographs had been stored for 40 plus years in stacks of shoeboxes at Mr. William’s residence. Ted was a struggling artist and his filing system consisted of shoeboxes and grade school 3-ring binders. More than 85,000 of these photographs have never been published or printed. Each photo is a thread in the fabric of American culture and each is an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind treasure. These shoeboxes contain American history waiting to be discovered. You are invited to share this journey of discovery with us.
Before Ted’s death, it was his dream to have his photographs archived, printed and displayed for the pubic to view and appreciate. He believed his photographs would help preserve the history of music in America. During the last 5 years of his life, we worked with Ted editing the photos and captioning when and where they were taken. Unfortunately, we were only able to edit about 3,500 of the 90,000 photos. This process was very time consuming and we now realize we need a team of editors working on this project to complete the archiving and preservation of these historically important and rare images.
To accomplish this work, we are launching Project Kickstarter to raise $65,000 to bring Ted’s dream to life. The funds raised will be used to employ a team of photo editors to properly archive the collection and pay the lab costs for proof sheets, work prints and creating original prints of the best photographs we find. We will then professionally frame between 60-100 of these for a Ted Williams retrospective exhibit at prestigious art galleries to present these extraordinary photographs to the public for the first time. We will also sell open and limited edition prints at the gallery shows and use the proceeds to continue our goal of editing and archiving the entire collection. After the initial gallery shows, we will look for corporate sponsorships to tour the collection across the country at appropriate cultural and educational venues.
Ted felt that his work was created for the people to be appreciated by the people. His dream was to use his photographs to illuminate a rarely seen period of American and music history. Now, we need your help to raise the capital required to turn his dream into reality.
Why We Share Ted’s Dream
We are doing this because Ted was a wonderful man, a grand storyteller and an incredible photographer. He lived a very humble life and never prospered financially from his photographic endeavors, though many of Ted’s photographs were published in such magazines as Jazz Times, Down Beat, Ebony, TIME, Newsweek and Playboy. He has even had some images displayed at the Smithsonian Institute.
If we don’t do this, Ted and his work will be lost and forgotten. That would be a tragedy for the world of music and photography.
About Ted Williams
Williams was one of the first African-American photographers to attend Chicago’s Institute of Design, where he heard lectures on photography by such luminaries as Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. He began taking pictures of musicians in the late 1940’s and his body of work consists of more than 90,000 images. His first major magazine article was a 21-page spread for Downbeat magazine when he covered the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. He went on to regularly contribute images for many music and national publications and took part in the exhibit “Images of Music: Classical through Rock” at New York’s Soho Triad Fine Arts Gallery.
When asked how he had access to such music greats, Mr. Williams responded, “In those days you didn’t have to go through publicists and managers, so if the guy who owned the club didn’t throw you out, you would just start shooting. Sometimes the musicians know me by sight, or I talked to them and some were kind of buddies. I was shooting in available light, so a lot of the times the artists didn’t even know I was shooting. This is where I got some of my best candid shots.”
Ted Williams passed away in Los Angeles of kidney failure at the age of 84 on October 13, 2009.
This is a project from the heart. We met Ted Williams in 1998 through David Oates of Playboy Licensing. My publishing partner Michael Malm and I were blown away by Ted's powerful imagery. But more important, we fell in love with the man behind the camera. Ted was an incredible artist, creative photo journalist and a great storyteller. As an art director I especially appreciate Ted's photo work with available light and his intuitive photo style. I became a "fan" immediately and so did Michael. We have rolled our enthusiam together and with your pledges, we can bring Ted's dream to reality. We are offering valuable rewards as an incentitive for your participation. Help us pay tribute to Ted Williams and his legacy.
Scope of the Project
Ted was an incredible artist but lacked orgranizational skills, Most of the archieve is 35mm B&W negs which we have already re-sleeved in proper negative sheets. For some reason Ted did not keep his negatives with their proof sheets and we doubt we have more than 20% of the negatives proofed. We have to decide if we'll scan and digitize all the negs or make traditional proof sheets. Then there is a portion of the negatives where subjects are not identified: for example band members in a group shot where the image has to be enlarged to viewed. We'll have a Jazz Historian come in to assist on the identification and writing captions for the photographs. There is a lot to be discovered and as we uncover images we will share them with you at the private on-line Discovery Gallery website that will launch when we reach our funding goal.
A book and documentary film could be considered if we were to exceed our goal.
The Ted Williams Kickstarter Project Team
Michael Malm Executive Director
Lou Modica Artistic Director
Max Modica Project Manager / Video Editor
Ralph Hattenbach Photo Archivist
Anna Lisa Photo Archivist
Richard Compton Documentary Film DIrector
Veronica Cartwright Voice Over
Susan Olshan Copy Editor
A Special thanks to Adriane Segal Williams
To view a sampling of Ted's photography go to: http://www.coroflot.com/Ted_Williams
Please watch for new updates
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY © Ted Williams
Story/web pages © Lou and Max Modica
Footnote: Ted's Portrait Roster1948 - 2009
Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Kelly, Tony Bennett, Pee Wee Russell, Mahalia Jackson, Lil Harden, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Mose Allison, Charlie "Bird" Parker, Modern Jazz Quartet; John Coltrane, Johnny Hodges, Sarah Vaughn, Shirley Scott, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich, Roy Haynes, Duke Ellington
Sam Woodyard, Count Basie, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Julian "Cannonball" Adderly, George Benson, George Shearing, Kenny Burrell, J.J. Johnson, Jean "Toots" Theilmans, Gene Ammons, Nat Adderly, Johnny Griffin, Cootie Williams, Art Blakey, Melba Liston, Benny Goodman, Lee Morgan, Les McCann, Erroll Garner, Charles Mingus, Stan Kenton, Wes Montgomery, Red Norvo, Cal Tjader, Slim Gaillard, John Lewis, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Hank Crawford, Billy Strayhorn, Pappa John Creech, Quincy Jones, Gary Burton, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Chano Pozo, Oscar Peterson, Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davi,
Jimmy Hamilton, Sonny Rollin,
Herb Ellis, Muddy Waters, Thad Jones, Dave Brubeck, Art Farmer, Paul Desmond, Benny Golson, Ray Charles, Billy Eckstein, Jimmy Rushing, Anita O'Day, Lambert Hendricks & Ross, Dinah Washington, Art Pepper, Hank Mobley, Gene Krupa, Charlie Byrd, Horace Silver, Billie Holiday, Sid Catlett, Bill Perkins, Al McKibbon, Ernestine Anderson, Joe Williams, Al Hibbler, Al Mangelsdorf, Max Roach, Bob Brookmeyer, Charlie Ventura, Ed Thigpen, Woody Herman, Johnny Griffin, Ray Brown, Harry Carney, Lionel Hampton, Paul Gonsalves, Gerry Mulligan, Hampton Hawes, Ben Webster, Milt Jackson, Carmen McRae, Percy Heath, Sonny Payne, Harry James, Billy Taylor, Red Rooney, Bill Crow, Tony Scott, Lennie Niehaus, Elvin Jones, Chico Hamilton, Joe Morello, Shakey Jake, Jack Teagarden, Dodo Mamarosa, Henry "Red" Allen, Yusef Latef, Roy Eldridge, Flip Phillips, Al Grey, Louie Bellson, Sonny Stitt, Paul Chambers, Gloria Lynn, Charlie Rouse, Charlie Mariano & Toshiko, Wayne Shorter, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Freddie Hubbard, Maynard Ferguson, Joe Newman, Lester Young, Billy Mitchell, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry, Annie Ross, Cecil Taylor, Eddie Harris, Laurindo Almeida, Lawrence Brown, Louie Bellson, Ira Sullivan, Ben Vereen, Randy Weston, Edith Piaf, Norman Granz, Sam Wannamaker, Richard Davis
Burgess Meredith, Jimmy Giuffre, Dick Gregory, Bill Henderson, Langston Hughes, Miff Mole, June Cristy, Sidney DeParis, Gary McFarland, The (1961) Jazz Crusaders