David Redfern: A brief biography

60's JAZZ

David Redfern's career began in the twilight jazz clubs of 1960's London. He risked his one and only camera amongst the jiving teenage crowds. The British Trad boom was under way. His first published photos featured Kenny Ball, Chris Barber, George Melly, and the old Marquee Club.


David began photographing TV Shows like 'Ready Steady Go' and 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' which were shot during the day. Here he made many of his now classic shots of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield.


Nights were spent at the 100 Club, Ronnie Scott's or the Marquee, where he captured on film all the jazz greats from Miles Davis to Ella Fitzgerald.


These pictures were to contribute to what is now the most comprehensive jazz collection in Europe. To break into the commercial world by chasing the big American names, David became a regular visitor to the Jazz festivals in Newport, Antibes and Montreux, and the big rock festivals, photographing such greats as Hendrix and Dylan.


By the 1970's David had firmly established his name as one of the top music photographers in the business. In 1980 Pete Townsend's Eel Pie Company published David Redfern's Jazz Album. Lavishly illustrated with many of David's finest jazz photographs, it was highly acclaimed by critics and public alike. In the same year, at Frank Sinatras request, David stepped into Terry O'Neill's shoes as official tour photographer.


In the late '80s several exhibitions featured the first 25 years:

  • He showed his work along with Lord Lichfield and Lord Snowdon at the Kodak and Royal Photographic Society's 'Living Body' exhibition. Based on the Channel 4 TV series, it was one of the biggest exhibitions ever held by Kodak.
  • In 1990 he was invited to put on an exhibition in Cuba to coincide with the Jazz Festival there.


At the beginning of 1989 David moved his music picture library REDFERNS to new premises in West London, a location now much favoured by the British music industry. The library expanded rapidly. Covering over 26,000 different artists and styles from every musical genre, and representing some 500 photographers and collections, it became the most comprehensive music picture library in the world, with over 205,000 items online.


The December '94 issue of the American publication Jazz Times featured David's work in their 'Special Collectors Edition', with select contributions from six of the world's most highly acclaimed jazz photographers. David was the only non-American to be featured. This also coincided with sale of his 1995 Jazz Calendar published by the renowned calendar publishers The Ink Group.

September 1995 saw the launch of a series of 10 Jazz postage stamps by the US post office. Three of David's images were used: Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk & Coleman Hawkins. The inclusion of the Louis Armstrong image was a result of some 38,000 signatures collected from 65 countries over 8 years, and had a special launch in New Orleans, the birthplace of Louis Armstrong. As a point of interest the picture of Louis Armstrong was taken by David in New York in 1967, on his first visit to the US.

Stamp 1Stamp 2Stamp 3


His book The Unclosed Eye was published by Sanctuary Publishing in May 1999 with critical acclaim. The London Sunday Times Magazine published a 4 page feature.

The book publication coincided with exhibitions in London, New York and New Orleans, followed by one in Cork, Ireland in October 2000. The prestigious design magazine 'Creative Review' published a profile on David in their February 2001 issue. It was entitled 'Leader with Vision'. David had another exhibition in September 2001 in conjunction with the Soho Jazz & Heritage Festival in London and at the Vienne Jazz festival in June/July 2002.


In November 2005 The Unclosed Eye expanded 2nd edition in hardback was published by David himself. This included a 200 limited slipcase edition complete with two 10 x 8 original colour prints.


David received 'The Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography' in New York in January 2007. The award recognizes lifetime achievement in jazz photography as art and history.


In December 2008 David sold Redferns Music Picture Library to Getty Images. He has the use in perpetuity of his favourite 1000 images to market as fine art prints, and for his partner Suzy to use in her fashion textile business Suzy Reed Ltd.


David is more active than ever in the picture business. He has been the President of BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) for the last 18 years, and is still traveling the world photographing music festivals.

The great,
late David Redfern

Died on October 22 2014