Internationally acclaimed jazz photographer David Redfern dies aged 78

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Acclaimed jazz and rock photographer David Redfern, best known for his stunning pictures of some of the world’s best musicians, has died aged 78. His brother told close friends this morning of his death at his house in Uzes, France – Redfern had been scheduled to be taken to hospital on Thursday (where there was a bed reserved for him), but he didn't make it that long and died in his second home in France. Although he had been fighting cancer for the last couple of years, he had kept working. His wife Suzy was with him and there will be private funeral ceremony in France and a memorial service in London shortly. He is survived by three children – Mark, Bridget and Simon – and five grandchildren.

Redfern’s friend and fellow photographer Tim Dickeson confirmed the news of his death to Jazzwise earlier today, and paid tribute to David’s determination to continue working in spite of his illness:

“I was with David at Jazz a Vienne in July – we all helped him to work for a few days – carrying his bag and helping him in and out of the pit. I spoke to his friend Tim Motion who said that 'this marks the end of an era' and that he and David were lucky to have worked in a time where great jazz photography was recognised as an art form and photographers were rightly revered for their work. He was my great friend and we spent more than 10 summers working at the European jazz festivals together – he will be greatly missed not just by the photographic community but by hundreds of artists who looked to him for inspirational photography.” 

Redfern’s career began in the 1960s as London’s jazz scene was beginning to blossom, in particular capturing the stars of the Trad Boom including Kenny Ball, Chris Barber and George Melly. He went on to photograph countless jazz icons as they visited Ronnie Scott’s, including US stars Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. He also spent a lot of time in America where he became a regular at big jazz festivals such as Newport, Antibes and Montreux – capturing the jazz greats in performance as well as rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan in their early pomp. He went on to publish his first photography book, Jazz Album, in 1980 and later that year at Frank Sinatra’s request, he stepped into Terry O'Neill's shoes as his official tour photographer.

Numerous exhibitions of his work followed and a second book, The Unclosed Eye, was published by Sanctuary Publishing in May 1999, with an expanded edition following in 2005. The book received great critical praise. He was also presented with The Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography in 2007 in New York and more recently received a Parliamentary Jazz Award for Services to Jazz this year at a ceremony on the Terrace Pavilion at the Houses Of Parliament. His work will live on though Getty Images who purchased his Redferns Music Picture Library in 2008.

Writing on his website earlier this summer Redfern remained passionate about his lifelong love of photographing the world’s best musicians:

“Summer has seen me photographing four days at the Vienne Jazz festival, with such artists as Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Truck band, Ben l'Oncle Soul, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, to name a few.  Two days in Juan les Pins, with Imelda May, Joss Stone & the Fabulous Chick Corea with Stanley Clarke, there’s still plenty of great music around, many thanks to fellow photographers Tim Dickeson and Ed Hawkins for looking after me in the photo pits. Future plans include a Norwegian fjord cruise in the autumn, the London Jazz Festival in November and an exhibition at the new South Coast Jazz festival in the Shoreham Arts Centre in late January 2015. I was shocked and upset by the news of the sudden death of my friend writer Jack Massarik, we had some great times together, most memorable was a trip to Cuba in 1990, may he rest in peace. Thanks as ever to my lovely wife Suzy for her unfailing devotion and constant caring for me during this time. Keep the faith and live every day to the full, you just never know…”

– Mike Flynn

– Tim Dickeson – photo of David Redfern taken at Jazz a Vienne in 2012