Blue Moments, Black Sounds – A Retrospective has just opened at the Worldly, Wicked & Wise Gallery in north London, featuring the work of photographer, writer and music historian Val Wilmer.
The exhibition includes not only portraits of eminent jazz and blues artists captured in various contexts, but images of New York’s free jazz scene, social aspects of the music and studies of America’s Deep South. Appropriately it coincides with the 40th anniversary of Format Photography, the all-women agency set up by Wilmer and Maggie Murray in 1983.
The photographs on show capture the intimacy, candour and joy of Wilmer’s work, reflecting her long-established respect and affection for her subject material and her understanding and insight into it. Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ayler, Muddy Waters, Babs Gonzales and others are all here, plus church congregations, back-porch guitarists and bar-room dancers.
Certain shots stand out – for this writer it’s Roosevelt Sykes playing in a smoky club in Brighton in 1961; a broadly smiling Dexter Gordon having his shoes shined in Piccadilly Circus; couples dancing in Bentonia, Mississippi; and an off-duty Louis Armstrong with Wilmer’s young brother Clive, taken on a Box Brownie in 1956, an extended annotation by the photographer herself.
The exhibition is on until 30th November, so you’ll need to hurry – highly recommended. A short walk from Queens Park tube station on the Bakerloo line, it’s at the WWW Gallery, 81 Salusbury Road, London NW6 6NH and is open Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00am – 6.00pm; Sunday: 11.00am – 4.00pm. Email is email@example.com. Tel: 020 7372 1110.
A small volume of Wilmer’s blues photographs, Deep Blues 1960-88, has just been published by Café Royal Books.