Herman Leonard’s photographs, now considered fine art collector’s items, are a unique record of the jazz scene in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Throughout his long life, he traveled and lived around the world, capturing images with his distinctive style. Whether he was photographing Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, or a street musician in his home in New Orleans, Herman's smile, warmth, and engaging personality continued to open doors for him and his camera; to reveal a world we might have missed. Certainly, Herman Leonard's iconic photographs will long be remembered not only for their enduring historic significance but also for their breathtaking artistic beauty. They are part of the permanent archives of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where they are considered as essential to American music history as Benny Goodman’s clarinet or Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. His legacy has continued to be honored with major touring exhibitions of his work including the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC, the San Francisco Jazz Center (SFJAZZ), The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and The Clinton Presidential Center. President Bill Clinton has called Herman Leonard, "The greatest jazz photographer in the history of the genre."
In the last years of his life, Herman Leonard’s goal was to bring his entire jazz collection, comprising a visual documentation of America’s original art form, back to life and preserve it for future generations.