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Indy Meetup Photo Club Message Board Classes & Seminars › Special visit by jazz music photographer Duncan Schiedt

Special visit by jazz music photographer Duncan Schiedt

A former member

IMUPC members:

I recently added this to the IMUPC calendar, but I also wanted to use this note to make you aware that the Indiana Photographic Society -- the photo club that hosted Marc Lebryk's special off-camera, on-location flash photography presentation on July 27 at the Garfield Park Arts Center -- is extending a special invitation to members of the Indy Meetup Photo Club to join them at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at the Garfield Park Arts Center for a visit by longtime Indiana jazz photographer Duncan Schiedt. There is no admission charge.

Schiedt, 90, is a musician and four-time published author as well as a photographer. I came upon Schiedt for the first time just two months ago, on June 11, when I photographed him playing a spirited keyboards for a jazz combo performing on the porch of the Benjamin Harrison House in Downtown Indianapolis as the annual Wicket World of Croquet competition unfolded nearby on the Harrison grounds. (A photo of him performing can be found at the IMUPC website -- look for the June 11, 2011, Old Northside shoot outing). In two conversations I've had with Schiedt to arrange the Aug. 17 visit, he sounded quite excited and interested in this opportunity to talk to fellow photographers.

Schiedt was born in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1921, and lived in New York City and its suburbs from 1936 to 1950. He got his start in jazz photography at the Stuyvestant Casino, Central Plaza and Crystal Palace in New York City, often selling 8x10s of his pictures there from a previous week's show -- for 35 cents each or three for a dollar -- to help pay for his film and flash bulbs. Fans could then chase after their favorite musicians and have them autograph the Schiedt-captured glossies to treasure as keepsakes. In 1951, Schiedt moved to Indiana, where his parents had settled, and he began his longtime interest in learning about jazz music and performers in Indiana and documenting it all in photographs -- all on black and white film, and all developed and printed by his own hand, in his own lab.

The Indianapolis Photographic Society is extending this invitation to members of the IMUPC because it realizes that, with Schiedt being 90 years of age, we may not have many more opportunities to hear a craftsman of our ilk with the experience of Schiedt, not to mention the scores of anecdotes he has.

Schidedt is a 2000 inductee into the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of Fame, and for several months in 2001, the Indianapolis Musuem of Art, the city's premier art exhibit hall, carried a display of Schiedt's jazz photographs in its galleries. His images have appeared not only in his own books, but in other books and in television documentaries, including the much-heralded Ken Burns 10-part jazz series on PBS.

Below is a biographical sketch of Schiedt as found among records held by the Indiana Historical Society, which holds many of Schiedt's negatives and original prints of his books, including "Jazz State of Indiana," a 1999 publication about the history of jazz in Indiana. Schiedt will bring copies of his most recent book, "Jazz in Black and White" (2004) -- the only one of his books dedicated exclusively to his photography -- to the Aug. 17 meeting and will offer signed copies of it for sale for $25. He no longer has copies of his "Jazz State of Indiana," but the book can be purchased through the Indiana Historical Society or online at

In order for the Indianapolis Photographic Society to accommodate extra seating that may be needed for IMUPC members attending the visit, the IPS asks that you please RSVP by email -- to -- by 8 p.m. Aug. 12 if you plan to attend this special event.

DUNCAN SCHIEDT BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH (from the Indiana Historial Society)

Photographer of jazz, Duncan Schiedt, wrote in the Preface to Jazz State of Indiana (1977 and 1999) "Indiana represented something special in jazz history." Hoosier jazz, he felt, made a special contribution to the "Midwestern Style" widely adopted by college and professional jazz bands.

Born in 1921 to Jacob B. and Kitty (Preston) Schiedt in Atlantic City, New Jersey, he moved with his family to New York City, where he attended George Washington High School. There he discovered "swing" music and the joys and mysteries of taking pictures. In 1938, he bought his first decent camera, an Argus C, and took pictures with it in the Times Square movie palaces, nightclubs and big band shows. He was pursuing his love of photography and jazz.

Called to serve in World War II, he honed his skills as a cameraman in the Army Air Force where his experience and reliability earned him the privilege of pictorially recording atomic bomb tests in the western Pacific area, including Bikini atoll, south of Wake Island. Returning to civilian life, he worked as a photographer in advertising before moving in 1951 to Pittsboro, Ind., where his parents had settled. In the nearby capital of Indianapolis, he organized the Indianapolis Jazz Club in order to give recognition to old-time musicians. He married Betty Benjamin, whom he had met in Washington, D.C., and a son and daughter were born to their home and survive today.

The interests of jazz and photography merged and became more than a hobby. As a photographer of jazz musicians and venues, Schiedt visually recorded — always in black and white — performers in movie houses, nightclubs and big-band shows, processing his films in his own darkroom so that any picture bearing his name was totally his own work. So successful was he that Marian McPartland, hostess of NPR's "Piano Jazz," later opined that the music Schiedt's subjects played "echoes in our hearts and minds."

"Jazz State of Indiana," one of four books Schiedt authored, shows a remarkable amount of research in his topic, treating theater bands, black bands, campus bands, all-girl bands, dancing centers, marathons and much more. Today, in retirement in Pittsboro (northeastern Hendricks County), after 65 years of shutter snapping and seeing the product of his works in numerous books, newspapers and galleries of major art museums, he maintains a small business supplying photos of jazz personalities to publishers.

-- Joe Konz

IMUPC co-organizer
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