Chet Baker photograph by William Claxton.
When I first began working for my boss, I started as an intern where I would do all the schelpy things interns do. I didn't care really, I was happy to do them all just to be around IT. And every once in a while I got to do something of interest, where I could learn. One of those things was a project we were working on for a audiofile company, who's name escapes me at the moment but we were doing some collateral pieces for them and my boss really wanted to use a William Claxton photo so he asked me call him and then fax him a request. I didn't know who William Claxton was, I assumed he was like the other photographers who came to see us on a regular basis. Now I know.
chet baker 1954 available from the Fahey/ Klein Gallery
It's sort of like I walked up to Ansel Adams' door and just knocked and said "hey there mister, ummmm I like those em' photos ur-a-takin' du ya think I could have one? holy.mother.of.eggplant.
My poor boss. He was a little stunned to realize that I had faxed the request, in my handwriting, I might add and no one proofed it, spell checked it or anything. I can tell you that I'm sure there were at least 3 misspelled words. That's sort of how I roll. oh gawd, I cringe just thinking about it. Learning. I was learning.
Drummer Elvin Jones outside Birdland, Manhattan, New York City. Photo: William Claxton
We got the image rights though, thankfully and now I know who William Claxton is and now I know how close my brush with greatness was. Funny how you don't know it till it's passed.
From the Taschen site:
In 1952, while a student at UCLA, Claxton began to photograph a young and unknown trumpet player named Chet Baker. The resulting collection of images from these sessions has become known throughout the world of jazz music.
Since his early career – shooting for Life, Paris Match, and Vogue, among other magazines – Claxton has worked with and become friends with many Hollywood luminaries, including Frank Sinatra and Steve McQueen. Well-known in the recording world, Claxton is one of the founding members of The Recording Academy, producers of the Grammy Awards. In 2003, he was awarded the distinguished Lucie at the International Photography Awards.
In the 1960s, Claxton collaborated with his wife, the noted fashion model Peggy Moffitt, to create a stunning collection of iconic fashion images featuring the revolutionary designs of Rudi Gernreich. A Claxton-directed film from the era, Basic Black, is considered by many to be the first "fashion video" and is now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. To this day, the Claxton/Moffitt/Gernreich images from this era continue to be hailed as masterful examples of modern style. As the author of thirteen books and subject of dozens of exhibitions, William Claxton enjoyed a worldwide audience for his work.
William Claxton passed away October 11th in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife Peggy Moffitt and his son Christopher.