Most people know of jazz icon Miles Davis, who composed and trumpeted his way to world renown, but many may not be familiar with photographer, Glen Craig, who took a series of carefully shot black and white photos of the musician. Several of them are pensive-like, some capture the frame of Davis’ boxing motion (the star’s biggest hobby), and others depict Davis at home on stage. In totality, Craig’s portfolio examines the focused face of the legend, which is now on display at the Leica Gallery in West Hollywood through May 11th.
Craig’s visuals of the jazz forerunner can also be found in miniature form in the album packaging of “Miles at the Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3” released in 2014, except for the fact that the photographic works are, in fact, from the 1970s. You wouldn’t know it, though, because they continue to maintain their relevance and significance even in today’s technologically-bolstered age.
An example of why this is the case can be traced to the unabashed intensity of Craig’s work, delineating Davis up close and personal, vulnerable and comfortable for the viewer, who, ironically, may feel like he or she is intruding. In one particular photo Davis is wearing a seemingly white garment bare down the middle, his contemplative eyes askew, but austere, and his right hand cupped with a pensive pause that compels the observer to consider a similar introspection. It goes without saying that as a result of the evocation by this photo and others of its ilk, contemporary trifles and trivia become moot in comparison.
Besides intensity, or perhaps in addition to it, is a passion that shines through Davis’ eyes, expertly recognized by Craig, especially in the photos highlighting the star’s love of boxing. One photo that exemplifies this is one of Davis standing in the foreground, empty chairs in the back, his jaw tensed, lips nearly pursed in mid-breath, eyes widened, and his left fist gearing to fuel the momentum of the spasmodic jab bag. Just like that, in one picture, the viewer is transplanted to a different epoch and, better yet, feels inspired even if boxing is not his or her “thing.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Miles Davis photo exhibit without the snapshots of him in his famed domain, as a jazz performer, a pursuit that not only filled his spirit but that of countless others who had the pleasure of witnessing him live in concert. And while intensity and passion are present in these photos, so is an immeasurable tranquility that comes over the viewer who sees the love that Davis had for his craft. In one notable photo by Craig, Davis’ eyes—the number-one standout of much of the exhibit—can’t be seen, only the lids. But the message, conveyed through a slightly bowed head and a perfectly positioned trumpet, remains unabated, even strengthened.
Ultimately, that’s where the appeal of Craig’s collection of Miles Davis photos lies—in authentic emotion that is both cross-generational and technologically-transcendent.
Leica Gallery Los Angeles
8783 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Miles Davis photos courtesy of Glen Craig
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