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A few words about Jan Persson’s jazz photos

Jazz and photography has gone well together from the beginning.
(Most) black musicians and (most) black/white photographs have all through the history of jazz been in interaction with each other.
The clichés are as thick as the jazz clubs are dark:
The musician on stage - or better:
The musician backstage. The back entrance, the worn down dressing-room or
the greasy kitchen, the untidy hotel.
The hard life on the road.
The hard drugs on the road,
and plenty of liquor and cigarette smoke.
This is not a health trip.
And then all that shines: the lustrous instruments, the elegant piano,
the well used strings of the bass, its distinctive profile and dark patinated laminate.
Or the spellbound audience and the magic light of interaction in the eyes of the musician.
A smoke, a black profile and a golden saxophone.
You can’t miss.

But there’s jazz photos and then there’s jazz photos.
You can actually miss so dreadfully.

Because the inexorable rule of all art applies here: that not until the clichés are surmounted can the actual story be told. The saxophone alone doesn’t do it.
There has to be a reason for exactly that picture of that musician on precisely that night, on that location, in that combo, with that number.

It may be that the films became faster and faster, but it didn’t become easier and easier.
Because it takes a completely different human – or compassionate - attribute
to press the shutter.

Because only a completely honest and sensitive candor towards that complex motive which the live music constitutes to the mute camera can bring about the desired result.

It is this receptiveness and sensitive candor which has been the motivating factor behind Jan Perssons tens of thousands jazz photos for more than 50 years.

I don’t know how he does it, because his gruff and noisy nature seem rule out that possibility.
But I have seen him work down there in the dark, around and behind the stage.
He becomes almost invisible and folds out antennae which put him on a wavelength with the music,
enables him to catch the obvious moments beyond all the clichés.
He not only freezes the moment - the camera takes care of that all by itself -
but he catches and secures the magic moment.
to secure and reproduce magic is granted to only a few photographers.
Especially now where everybody takes and impudently sends crummy photos into cyberspace.

The collection of Jan Persson’s jazz photos is a unique treasure.
Not only has he been extremely hard-working, he has also had the good luck that jazz came to Copenhagen in those very years, where he turned his perspective in that direction.
He was caught in the dark and stayed in there.
He found his way home.

And all the great stars were there, they came to us, but it required an artist to make them sparkle - also in the photographic split second.

That artist was - and is - Jan Persson.
The jazz photographs of Jan Persson are no secret and they are in great demand by record producers, magazines and publishers all over the world.
But precisely this demand makes it extremely important to keep the archive together so it won’t scatter all over and get lost in editorial offices all over the world.
He has guarded his steadily growing and well-organized archive like a terrier.
This will be an assignment which competent and enthusiastic people must take care of in the future.

That’s why!!!
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Per Arnoldi
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- Per Arnoldi