While photographing the New York City jazz scene in the 50′s and 60′s, Robert James Campbell documented the birth of a new era from behind the lens. Despite his arresting images of people who would shape the American landscape, Campbell passed away impoverished and alone. His photographic collection contains a prolific assortment of iconic images that span numerous genres including jazz, entertainment, civil rights activism, and the cultural renaissance of New York City. Some of his subjects include John Coltrane, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Count Basie, Bud Powell, Mississippi John Hurt, Myrlie Evers and Chuck Berry to name a few.
After succumbing to the numerous challenges that plagued him throughout his life, including mental illness, financial hardships, and internal struggles as an artist, Campbell lost everything and returned to Burlington Vermont. He arrived with few personal belongings, but managed to carry his entire life’s work on his back, literally. Until the day he died, he held out for the personal and artistic resolve he was unable to fully achieve in his living years.
Campbell passed away in 2001. Having never had the proper recognition for his astute artistic accomplishments, a project has begun to usher his collection to its proper resting place, and make his photographs available to the public as educational and artistic resources.
Learn more and help out here: I Saved Jazz Photography.