George Pickow

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George Pickow
Born(1922-02-11)February 11, 1922
DiedDecember 10, 2010(2010-12-10) (aged 88)
NationalityUnited States
Known forPhotography, Film

George Pickow (February 11, 1922 – December 10, 2010) was a photographer and filmmaker who chronicled the folk and jazz music scenes in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries.[1] He was married to the well-known Kentucky folk musician Jean Ritchie.

Early life[edit]

Pickow was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Brooklyn, New York.[2] In the early 1940s, he was introduced to folk music when he heard Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie jamming every night in a tiny cabin at the left-wing Camp Unity summer camp in upstate New York. Pickow studied painting at Cooper Union and made training films for the Navy in World War II.


In 1952, Pickow accompanied his wife Jean Ritchie on a Fulbright Scholarship to collect folk songs in Britain and Ireland. When Alan Lomax, then working out of London for the BBC, and his collaborator Peter Kennedy of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, decided to document the unique May Eve and May Day Festivals at Padstow in Cornwall, they selected Pickow to be their cameraman. The result was the 16-minute color film Oss Oss Wee Oss (1953).[2]

In 1961, Pickow and Lomax collaborated on a short film documentary about the Greenwich Village folk revival scene intended to be shown on the BBC. This never happened, however, and ten years later Alan's daughter Anna Lomax Wood, edited the surviving scraps and fragments in her father's office into a short film, Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass. In addition to Ritchie, Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass features what one reviewer called "killer footage" [3] of performances by Clarence Ashley, Guy Carawan, Willie Dixon, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Roscoe Holcomb, Peter La Farge, Ernie Marrs, The New Lost City Ramblers, Memphis Slim, and the first known footage of a very young Doc Watson. In the audience are Maria Muldaur and Bob Dylan. Despite apocryphal tales, John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers affirms that Bob Dylan is not the male clog dancer at the beginning of the film.[4]

In 1967, he helped film the Newport Folk Festival.[2]

His photographs depict many musical artists, ranging from Louis Armstrong, Little Richard, and Theodore Bikel, to Pete Seeger and Judy Collins, as well as visual artists such as Edward Hopper and the model Pamela Green.[5] He marketed his imagery through the international agency Three Lions Inc.[6] for which he was the principal photographer, then partner.[2]

His career also included an extensive documentation of Jean Ritchie's work and his photographs illustrated many of her books. In 1996 the Ritchie Pickow Photographic Archive was acquired by the James Hardiman Library, National University of Ireland, Galway.[citation needed]

Marriage and family[edit]

Pickow and Ritchie met in 1948 at a square dance at the Henry Street Settlement. The following day, Pickow invited her to accompany him on a photo shoot at the Fulton Fish Market. "The result — Ms. Ritchie perched on the hood of a truck, holding a rather large lobster — was published in a trucking-industry magazine."[7] They married in 1950 and had two sons, Peter and Jon.


Pickow, who had been in declining health for some time, died December 10, 2010, two days after his wife Jean Ritchie's 88th birthday.[8]


  1. ^ Margalit Fox (December 18, 2010). "George Pickow, Artist Who Chronicled Musical Life, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d Derek Schofield (January 13, 2011). "George Pickow obituary". US photographer and film-maker who chronicled the heyday of folk and jazz
  3. ^ "FAME Review: Ballads, Blues, & Bluegrass - A Film by Alan Lomax (DVD)". Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  4. ^ "Ballads, Blues and Bluegrass (#2)". July 1, 2013.
  5. ^ George Pickow (1922-2010) - Pamela Green
  6. ^ Delatiner, Barbara (1999-04-25). "Stepping Out From Behind the Camera". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-07-30.
  7. ^ Fox, Margalit (December 18, 2010). "George Pickow, Artist Who Chronicled Musical Life, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Spiegel, Max. "Obit: RIP George Pickow (10 Dec 2010, age 88)". Retrieved October 27, 2019.

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