Jazz in London: Photographs by Walter Hanlon

National Portrait Gallery

Jazz in London: Photographs by Walter Hanlon
Through 20 July 2008 – Room 31 case display

New photographic display documents the jazz scene of 1950s

To mark the National Portrait Gallery’s recent acquisition of a selection of photographs by Walter Hanlon, this display brings together his atmospheric portraits of the jazz scene in London in the 1950s. Including portraits of the most popular UK and US players of the period – amongst them Sir John ‘Johnny’ Dankworth, Humphrey Lyttelton and Cab Calloway.

Cab Calloway and Walter Hanlon by Walter Hanlon, 1952
©Walter Hanlon
Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

One of the key venues in the 1950s was the ‘London Jazz Club’ at 100 Oxford Street, renamed the ‘100 Club’ in the 1960s to encompass a broader musical remit. Originally a restaurant, live music was first played at this venue by Victor Feldman and his band in 1942. American servicemen, some who were well known jazz musicians, such as Glenn Miller, visited the club and its reputation grew during the war. In 1948, the club was renamed the London Jazz Club and later in the 1950s, was briefly known as ‘The Humphrey Lyttelton club’. In 1952, Walter Hanlon staged an exhibition of his work at the London Jazz Club, and this display includes photographs of the private view in full swing, as well as portraits of some of the many artists that performed at the club, including Wally Fawkes, Steve Race and Joe Harriott.

Elsewhere in the display, Walter Hanlon is shown giving photography tips to Cab Calloway of ‘Minnie the Moocher’ fame, Annie Ross, the sultry singer and actress described by Kenneth Tynan as ‘a thoughtful girl who has led a fairly wild life’, is photographed by candlelight and Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz musician, bandleader, broadcaster and journalist is depicted in a complex silhouette, framed by a collection of his instruments.

On this display of his photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, Hanlon says: ‘I am very pleased and excited that the National Portrait Gallery is showing a selection of my work, which can now be seen by a much wider public. The fifties were a stimulating time to be a photographer, and seeing these images again has evoked many pleasant memories. It was a privilege to be a part of that scene.’

Annie Ross (Annabelle Short) by Walter Hanlon, 1956
©Walter Hanlon
Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

Humphrey Lyttelton by Walter Hanlon, 1954
©Walter Hanlon
Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

This display of Hanlon’s most evocative jazz portraits is contextualised with some of the record covers that the images originally appeared on, including Annie by Candlelight (Nixa Jazz Today Series, 1956).

About Walter Hanlon

Walter Hanlon was born in Glasgow in 1926. Leaving school aged fourteen; he went to serve with the Merchant Navy before becoming a professional guitarist working with ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) and the American USO (United Service Organisations). He also broadcast with the big bands of David Miller, Miff Ferrie and George Elrick. Hanlon pursued a career in photography from 1949 until the mid 1950s. He was able to utilise his knowledge and contacts within the 1950s London jazz scene to cover major music events. Using ‘off camera’ flash or available light, he took striking black and white atmospheric shots used for EP and LP covers. Retiring from a career as a television lighting director in 1989, Hanlon has re-visited his negatives, allowing these unique images of a generation of jazz musicians to be seen again.


Espaces Arts & Objets Swiss Art Gallery


~ by Stampfli & Turci on May 29, 2008.

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