National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; partial gift of Lynda Lanker and a museum purchase made possible with generous support from Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Agnes Gund, Kate Kelly and George Schweitzer, Lyndon J. Barrois Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois, and Mark and Cindy Aron
Duncan Schiedt (1921-2014) was a jazz scholar, writer, photographer, film maker, researcher and pianist. He authored four books relating to jazz history. Many of his photographs and articles were featured in magazines, periodicals and documentaries. Schiedt also collected the work of other photographers on the subject of jazz. The collection primarily consists of photographs created by or collected by Mr. Schiedt.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of Schiedt's own photographs of jazz performers, photographs of jazz performers taken by other photographers, research notes, films, and recordings of jazz.
Collection is arranged into five series.
Series 1: Background Information and Research Materials, 1915-2012, undated
Series 2: Photographic Materials, 1900-2012, undated
Subseries 2.1: Historical Photographs and Negatives, 1915-2012
Subseries 2.2: Artist Files Photographs, 1900-2000, undated
Subseries 2.4: Roscoe Allen Photographic Prints, undated
Subseries 2.5: Individual Instrumentalists Photographic Prints and Negatives, 1938-1990, undated
Subseries 2.6: John Minor Negatives, undated
Subseries 2.7: Indianapolis Theater Photographic Prints and Negatives, 1935-1956, undated
Subseries 2.8: Theater and Vaudeville Negatives, 1910-1948, undated
Subseries 2.9: Glass Plate Negatives and Copy Prints, undated
Subseries 2.10: Publicity and Festival Negatives, 1930-1962, undated
Series 3: Charles T (Ted) Grubb Papers, 1919-1999, undated
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1901-1950, undated
Series 5: Audiovisual Materials, undated
Biographical / Historical:
For over sixty-five years, professional photographer Duncan Preston Schiedt combined his love of jazz with his love of photography. Born in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to Jacob and Kitty Schiedt, he later moved with his family to New York City. In the mid-1930s, he discovered the two loves of his life. Ironically, he first heard jazz or "swing music" as it was then known in a radio broadcast while attending a boys' school in England in 1936. Back in the States by 1938, he was enthralled when a friend showed him his basement darkroom and taught him how to develop film. He soon bought his own camera and began taking pictures in the Times Square movie palaces, nightclubs, and big band shows of New York. In World War II, he served as a cameraman in the Army Air Force, where he recorded atomic bomb tests in the western Pacific area, including Bikini Atoll.
In 1950, Schiedt married Betty Benjamin and moved to Hollywood where he worked at the Atomic Energy Commission's film laboratory for eight months. After returning to civilian life, he worked as a photographer in advertising in New York before moving in 1951 to Pittsboro, Indiana, where his parents had relocated. He had two children, Cameron and Leslie.
Thereafter, his interests in jazz and photography merged and became more than a hobby, as he transformed himself into one of the country's leading jazz historians and photographers. He traveled the country to photograph performers in movie houses, night clubs, big-band shows, jazz festivals, and other venues. Schiedt always shot in black and white, since to him that was the essence of jazz. As he wrote in the introduction to his book, Jazz in Black and White: The Photographs of Duncan Schiedt, "Jazz is a black and white music. Its range, from blinding brilliance to deepest shadings, seems to demand the drama that black and white can so easily provide. Consequently, when I take a photograph of a jazz subject, I see it in those terms."
He processed all his own film in his own darkroom so that any picture bearing his name was totally his own work. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous galleries, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, the Chicago Public Library, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Pensacola Art Museum. While shooting, Schiedt also interviewed his subjects, and those interviews added to his ever-growing scholarship in the field. He was the author of three books, The Jazz State of Indiana, Twelve Lives in Jazz,and Jazz in Black and White: The Photographs of Duncan Schiedt, and co-author of Ain't Misbehavin': The Story of Fats Waller. His photographs and articles have been published in the leading jazz periodicals and magazines. Over the years, he also amassed a first-rate collection of historical photographs of jazz musicians. Both his historical photographs and his original work were featured extensively in Ken Burns' Public Broadcasting Station series "Jazz." Duncan Schiedt died on March 12, 2014.
Materials in the Archives Center
Leonard Gaskin Papers, NMAH.AC.0900
Donated to the Archives Center in 2014 by Duncan Schiedt's daughter and son, Leslie Michel and Cameron Schiedt.
Collection is open for research.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright or trademark. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.