Jazz Through A Lens

We owe a great deal to those who have been able to record the world of jazz through photographs. Not, just the lucky snaps taken at this gig or that, but the work of great photographers who somehow manage to capture the essence of a musician, a scene or a gig in a way that tells something deeper about the subject. Sadly, October 2009 saw the passing of Harlem photographer Roy DeCarava, but in the UK we are lucky to still have great jazz photographers amongst us who have captured the story of jazz over the years, people like Walter Hanlon and Terry Cryer.

Terry Cryer was born in Terry Cryer1934 in one of the poorer areas of Leeds. By the time he was 14 he was working for Cardigan D&P, a film processing firm, mixing chemicals at 100 gallons a time. It is not surprising that he became interested in photography, but it was not until he joined the Army at 17, moved from square bashing to the War Office and took examinations in photography that he was sent to Egypt with an imitation Leica camera. He saved up his pay and eventually bought a better twin-lens Rolleiflex camera.

Terry Cryer
All photos copyright © Terry Cryer. All Rights Reserved.


De-mobbed and back in Leeds, he continued to work as a ‘jobbing photographer’ at Butlins Holiday Camp, knocking on doors to photograph babies and taking photographs around UK jazz clubs where he met and made friends with many famous musicians. Tuba player Bob Barclay opened Studio 20 in Leeds where jazz was played seven nights a week. 'I was introduced to the club by bassist Billy Bowskill,' remembers Terry. 'Billy played with Ed Odonells band and Ed had playBig Bill Broonzy br Terry Cryered with Ken Colyer.' Terry started to take photographs of the musicians who played at Studio 20 and by 1956 he was photographing Louis Armstrong’s UK visit and the links he made led to him tour with Jimmy Rushing and then with Eddie Condon. But returning home from a Big Bill Broonzy gig in Manchester the car crashed. 'We had got pissed with Big Bill in the dressing room after the concert and Bob Barclay fell asleep at the wheel,it is not surprising we crashed!' Terry says. Despite being left with a broken back, Terry was not a ‘patient patient’ it was not long before he was back behind his camera, still strapped up in plaster.

Big Bill Broonzy
All photos copyright © Terry Cryer. All Rights Reserved

Terry moved to London in 1957 and lived in Lisle Street across the road from Mick Mulligan - 'I used to baby sit for him and Pam.' - and when Terry married:'Chris Barber was my best Sister Rosetta Tharpeman, Monty Sunshine the chief Usher and Sister Rosetta Tharpe the Matron of Honour.' Terry got a job working for Jazz News for ten shillings a photograph (including the printing cost), but before long his pictures were taken up by the national newspapers and he joined the Associated Press. His work has taken him from Soho to Moscow where, as his autobiography describes, he sometimes found himself developing film in lavatory pans behind the Iron Curtain.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
All photos copyright © Terry Cryer. All Rights Reserved

Thirty years ago, Terry closed his darkroom and retired to Yorkshire, but not before he had built up a comprehensive portfolio of pictures that has become increasingly recognised in recent years. There has been a touring exhibition of his work ‘Love You All Madly’ that visited Yorkshire and Liverpool at the end of 2008 and into 2009, and the Proud gallery in London's Camden featured his photographs in their Blues Anthology exhibition over a similar period. His work is also exhibited at the Henry Ransome Centre at the University of Texas and at Dean Clough in Halifax.

Described by Mojo magazine as ‘The dean of UK jazz and blues’, Terry has also been a friend of Paul McCartney who said: ‘I’ve known Terry for many years as a Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Stitt by Terry Cryermate and have admired his photographic work for as long as I can remember. Linda and I both respected his talent and his great photographic skills.’ Take a look at Terry’s photographs on his website www.terrycryer.com and you will see how he has been able to capture so much of the underlying characters of people like Coleman Hawkins, Freddy Green, Big Bill Broonzy, Eartha Kitt, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Sonny Stitt. There are also some great photographs of dance that you should not miss on the site’s gallery pages.

Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Stitt
All photos copyright © Terry Cryer. All Rights Reserved

Terry's autobiography One In The Eye (Yorkshire Arts Circus) which contains a good selection of his pictures is now out of print, but copies are still available online and Amazon has them at the time of writing (2009) from £13.99 plus postage (click here).

Sadley, Terry died on 15th January 2017.

© Terry Cryer and Ian Maund 2009-2017

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