Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography

Description

Ralston Crawford was a painter, lithographer and photographer. He was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1906, but grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his father worked as a cargo ship captain. At 20, he left home to work on tramp steamers, traveling to Caribbean and South American ports, but abandoned the sailor’s life after a year to enroll in classes at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. After two terms at Otis, he moved east and resumed his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania, followed by a yearlong stint in Paris at the Academies Colarossi and Scandinave. By 1934 he was back in the U.S. preparing for his first solo exhibition of paintings at the Maryland Institute of Art. Crawford gained much critical and popular acclaim for his early work, which is most often associated with Precisionism – an American art movement characterized by simplified, geometric forms and themes of industrialization.

Never one to stay in one place for long, Crawford continued to make frequent trips to Europe, and he held posts as visiting professor and artist-in-residence at schools around the country, including the Honolulu School of Art, University of Southern California, Art Academy of Cincinnati and Louisiana State University. Despite his itinerant leanings, one place he returned to again and again was New Orleans.
He first visited the city with camera in tow in 1938 and returned nearly every year for the rest of his life. A longtime jazz enthusiast, Crawford was drawn to the city’s parades and second lines, its bars and clubs, and of course, its musicians, many of whom he considered his closest friends. In 1949, during his tenure as visiting artist at Louisiana State University, he began methodically documenting the musical culture of the city through photography. Where he had previously used the camera as a tool to generate source material for his paintings, his New Orleans photos stand as works unto themselves and mark an important shift in his photography towards a more spontaneous, documentary approach.

According to curator Barbara Haskell of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Crawford had printed nearly 10,000 New Orleans photographs by the end of his life. The Hogan Jazz Archive’s Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography was acquired in 1961 and includes 741 of what Crawford deemed his best images New Orleans images. Richard B. Allen, former curator of the Archive, who often accompanied him on his photographic excursions, said Crawford “caught joy, grief, rituals, cheating, dancing, selling, boredom, drunkenness, religion, lust, sickness, hard work, friendship and so many other things.”1 In a piece he wrote for The Second Line magazine in 1953, Crawford provided a more understated description of the series: “I have gone and shall continue to go, to bars, night clubs, dances, churches and parades, because the sounds coming from these places are fine. Here is part of my reaction in pictures.”2

Ralston Crawford died in Houston in 1978 and was interred at St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 in New Orleans. According to his wishes, he had a traditional jazz funeral.

1 Anderson, J. Lee, “The Painter as Photographer,” Mississippi Rag, (August 1990): 1-5
2 Crawford, Ralston, “Ralston Crawford’s Photographs,” The Second Line 4 (July-August 1953): 1-12.

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Andrew Morgan's Brass Band in Sunday school parade
Herman Sherman, Paul Barbarin, and Harold Dejan standing at the corner of Dryades and Philip Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Andrew Morgan's Brass Band pausing on a corner
Herman Sherman (holding alto saxophone), Clement Tervalon, Anderson Minor, Paul Barbarian (on bass drum), and Harold Dejan (holding alto saxophone) pausing from a Sunday school parade on a corner., raeburn@tulane.edu
Andrew Morgan's Brass Band Playing on a corner
Red Clark on the sousaphone, Edgar 'Sambo' Joseph, John 'Pickey' Brunious, Kid Howard on the trumpet, Harold Dejan on the alto saxophone, and Clement Tervalon on the trombone, playing on the corner of Dryades and Philip Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Andrew Morgan's Brass Band playing on a corner
Red Clark on the sousaphone, Edgar 'Sambo' Joseph, and Clement Tervalon on the trombone, playing on the corner of Dryades and Philip Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Andy Anderson at a farewell party for John Minor
Andy Anderson playing the trumpet at a farewell party for John Minor at Rosenweld Gym., raeburn@tulane.edu
Andy Anderson Band
Charles Sylvester, d, Isidore “Tuts” Washington (back to camera),p, Andy Anderson, tp, leader, Albert Delone, as, Martin Cole, ts at Tip Top Pavilion, [2114 ?] Barataria Blvd., Marrero, raeburn@tulane.edu
Andy Anderson Band
Charles Sylvester, d, and Isidore “Tuts” Washington (back to camera), p at Tip Top Pavilion, [2114 ?] Barataria Blvd., Marrero, raeburn@tulane.edu
Andy Anderson Band
Charles Sylvester, d, and Isidore “Tuts” Washington (back to camera), p at Tip Top Pavilion, [2114 ?] Barataria Blvd., Marrero, raeburn@tulane.edu
Ann Cook
Singer Ann Cook at her home on Thalia Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Arthur 'Monk' Hazel
Arthur 'Monk' Hazel, who played drums, cornet, mellophone, and also worked as a laborer on the street for the city., raeburn@tulane.edu
Arthur 'Monk' Hazel, Leon Prima, and Kidney Stew
Arthur 'Monk' Hazel on drums, Leon Prima on the trumpet; and Kidney Stew (a dancer) during a meeting for the New Orleans Jazz Club., raeburn@tulane.edu
Artisan Hall
The exterior of Artisan hall on Derbigny Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Ash Wednesday at Mardi Gras
in the French Quarter, raeburn@tulane.edu
The Astoria
The front of the Astoria Cocktail Lounge, where many jazz bands played in the 1920s., raeburn@tulane.edu
Audience at the Dew Drop Inn
The audience reacting to Lollypop Jones' performance., raeburn@tulane.edu
Audience at the Dew Drop Inn
The audience reacting to Lollypop Jones' performance., raeburn@tulane.edu
Avery 'Kid' Howard
Avery 'Kid' Howard at home with his wife on St. Philip Street., raeburn@tulane.edu
Avery "Kid" Howard
Avery "Kid" Howard visiting with Chester Jones [, d]; at Chester Jones’ home on the 1000 block Treme Street, raeburn@tulane.edu
The backside of Percy Randolph's push wagon
The backside of Percy 'Brother' Randolph's push wagon stationed outside his home on the 600 Block of Burgundy, raeburn@tulane.edu
Ball at the San Jacinto Hall
A formal ball in progress inside the San Jacinto hall., raeburn@tulane.edu

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