Carole Reiff at AIPAD Photography Show, Park Avenue Armory, NYC - April 16 - 19, 2015


by Michael Sherer
Posted: Apr 2015
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Miles Davis - photo by Carole Reiff

Miles Davis - photo by Carole Reiff

This is the most interesting and far ranging photo show I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot. I look forward to it every year. The Association of International Photography Art Dealers is a collective that has been in existence since 1979, and exhibiting since 1980. They currently represent more than 120 leading world wide fine art galleries, with 89 of them participating this year, the 35th anniversary of the exhibition. The U.S., Canada, Europe, South America and Asia were among the countries represented.

Held every year at the historic Park Avenue Armory, this is a venue that’s ideal to take in the wide ranging, carefully prepared and presented work. Contemporary, modern and 19th century images were all on display at museum-quality level.

My favorite showing was the work of photographer Carole Reiff, (b. 1934, d. 1984), represented by Michael Dawson Gallery of Los Angeles. Reiff, who in her short life of 50 years took many striking images of world renowned jazz musicians, most of whom were at their prime in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There were so many of them, but some of the more notable ones are Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Paul Chambers, Miles Davis, Roland Kirk, Ahmad Jamal, Chet Baker and Art Blakey. On display at AIPAD was an excellent image of Davis in Columbia Records’ 30th Street NYC recording studio, circa 1957, which I used for this review.

Some background on Reiff: She was the daughter of illustrator and photographer Hal Reiff. She began photographing while in her teens, and graduated from the esteemed High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. She then studied at the Art Students League, also in Manhattan and a very fine institution.

Reiff fell in love with jazz and took to it immediately as her primary subject matter. She was one of very few female photographers of that era working, let alone published. Employing a twin-lens Rolleiflex camera that her father gave her, she managed to gain access to jazz clubs, concert halls, recording studios and rehearsal lofts. Reiff had a keen sense of spontaneity, i.e knowing the decisive moment to snap, an essential yet elusive intuition, among many others, that any serious photography needs to possess.

Reiff freelanced for many record companies and magazines, including Columbia, Atlantic, Riverside, United Artists, Prestige and others. Her photographs appeared in Esquire, Time and the music trade journals. Metronome magazine cited her portrait of Thelonious Monk as “Jazz Photograph of the Year, 1956”. Starting in the 1960’s, Reiff worked almost exclusively in the very different and regimented world of advertising. She died in 1984 at age fifty. (I’m unable to find the cause). The following year a compilation of her photography, called Nights in Birdland, was published. Seek out her work.