Hank O'Neal

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Hank O'Neal
Hank O'Neal by Esther Bubley 1995.jpg
Hank O'Neal photographed by Esther Bubley in New York City, August 1995
Born Harold L. O'Neal, Jr.
(1940-06-05) June 5, 1940 (age 75)
Kilgore, Texas, USA
Alma mater Syracuse University
Occupation Music producer
Years active 1970-present
Known for Founder of Chiaroscuro Records and Hammond Music Enterprises
Military career
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1962–1967
Rank US military captain's rank.gif Captain

Hank O’Neal (born June 5, 1940) is an American music producer, author and photographer. He is equally well known in all these disciplines.


His mother, Sarah Christian O’Neal was a musically and intellectually inclined housewife from Tyler, Texas. His father was a professional soldier and educator in the US Army in Texas and the Pacific (1929–1947) and, following World War II, an educator and public school superintendent in upstate New York (1953–72). O’Neal was raised throughout Texas (primarily Fort Worth), and in Bloomington, Indiana, and Syracuse, New York. After first attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he graduated from Syracuse University in 1962.

Early career[edit]

In 1960 O’Neal was introduced to a representative of the Central Intelligence Agency and ultimately accepted employment with that organization. He reported for duty in January 1963 and remained with the CIA in Washington D.C. and New York City until 1976. He served in the US Army during the same period (1962–1967), rising to the rank of Captain. The nature of his employment allowed him the flexibility of pursuing other interests during these years.


During a forty-year career in music, he formed two record companies, Chiaroscuro Records[1][2] and Hammond Music Enterprises,[3] built two recording studios (WARP and Downtown Sound[4]), produced over 200 jazz LPs/CDs and - in conjunction with his business partner, Shelley M. Shier and their production company, HOSS, Inc. - over 100 music festivals (The Floating Jazz Festival,[5][6] The Blues Cruise, Mardi Gras At Sea,[7] Big Bands At Sea, and others from 1983–2002), published a number of books and articles on jazz, photographed most of the giants of jazz from the second half of the 20th Century, exhibited these photographs regularly, and served on the boards of various non-profit organizations that serve the jazz community, including the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program of The New School (1985 to present), The Jazz Foundation of America (1993 to present) and more recently the Jazz Gallery (1995 to present) and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.


He began taking photographs while a teenager, and began to pursue the field seriously in 1969, when he bought a professional camera and began documenting recording sessions and jazz concerts that he was producing. Long before Berenice Abbott[8] admonished him to always have a project, he undertook his first, in rural East Texas during 1970-1973. These photographs led to his first exhibition in September 1973, at The Open Mind Gallery in New York City.

In the 1970s he associated with a diverse group of photographers, notably Walker Evans, André Kertész and most importantly, Berenice Abbott, with whom he worked for the last 19 years of her life.

From 1970 to 1999 (in addition to undertaking many photographic projects), O’Neal also published numerous books related to photography. In 1999, at the urging of gallery director Evelyn Daitz, he had a major retrospective of his work to that point at The Witkin Gallery.[9] Since that time, he has focused his activities toward photography, and he has mounted several exhibitions. In 2003 his photographic career was summarized in a major profile in the New York Times.[10]

Humanitarian Causes[edit]

O'Neal sits on the Honorary Founders Board of The Jazz Foundation of America.[11] He worked with the Jazz Foundation to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. During 40 years in the music business, O’Neal has served on the boards of various non-profit organizations, including the Jazz Foundation of America, the Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Jazz Gallery and the Jazz and Contemporary Program of The New School.[12]

Selected publications[edit]

Books (text and illustrations)[edit]

Books (photographs only)[edit]


  • Berenice Abbott - Portraits In Palladium (Text Only, Commerce Graphics/ Lunn Limited, 1990)
  • Hank O'Neal - Photographs (Text and 12 gravure prints), Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Text and 12 photographs), Glenside Press, 2007)


  1. ^ Chiaroscuro Records
  2. ^ All about Jazz
  3. ^ Hammond Music Enterprises
  4. ^ Downtown Sound
  5. ^ Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker, February 8, 1988 pp. 82-89
  6. ^ Oren Jacoby, Travel and Leisure, January 1997, pp. 8-11
  7. ^ Whitney Balliett
  8. ^ Berenice Abbott - American Photographer (McGraw-Hill, 1982)
  9. ^ The Witkin Gallery
  10. ^ Career summary
  11. ^ JFA.org. 13 October 2009 [1] accessed 13 October 2009. (Archived by Jazz foundation at [2])
  12. ^ jazz.com. 13 October 2009 [3] accessed 13 October 2009. (Archived by Forums.Jazz at [4])

External links[edit]