William P. Gottlieb

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William P. Gottlieb
William P. Gottlieb 16181 original.jpg
Gottlieb at WINX radio station, Washington, circa 1940
William Paul Gottlieb

January 28, 1917
Brooklyn, New York
DiedApril 23, 2006(2006-04-23) (aged 89)
Poster detail between 1938 and 1948 in Washington, D.C.

William Paul Gottlieb (January 28, 1917 – April 23, 2006) was an American photographer and newspaper columnist who is best known for his classic photographs of the leading performers of the "Golden Age" of American jazz in the 1930s and 1940s. Gottlieb's photographs are among the best known and widely reproduced images of this era of jazz.[1]

During the course of his career, Gottlieb took portraits of hundreds of prominent jazz musicians and personalities, typically while they were playing or singing at well-known New York City jazz clubs. Well-known musicians Gottlieb photographed included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Jo Stafford, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Ray McKinley, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, Toots Thielemans, and Benny Carter.[1][2]


Ahmet Ertegün, Duke Ellington, William P. Gottlieb, Nesuhi Ertegün, Dave Stuart, and singer Ivie Anderson, William P. Gottlieb's home, Maryland.
Photograph by Delia Potofsky Gottlieb.

Gottlieb was born on January 28, 1917 in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, and he grew up in Bound Brook, New Jersey, where his father was in the building and lumber business. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1938, with a degree in economics. While at Lehigh, Gottlieb wrote for the weekly campus newspaper and became editor-in-chief of The Lehigh Review. In his last year of college, he began writing a weekly jazz column for The Washington Post. While writing for the Post, Gottlieb taught economics at the University of Maryland.[3] After the Post decided that it could not afford to pay a photographer to shoot photos for Gottlieb's jazz column, Gottlieb bought his own press camera and began taking pictures for his column.[1][4]

Gottlieb was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1943, and he served as a photo officer and as a classifications officer.[1] After World War II, Gottlieb moved to New York City to pursue a career in journalism. He worked as a writer-photographer for Down Beat magazine, and his work also appeared frequently in Record Changer, the Saturday Review, and Collier's. In 1948, Gottlieb retired from the jazz field in order to spend more time with his wife, Delia, and children.

After Gottlieb left Down Beat, he began working at Curriculum Films, an educational filmstrip company. He then founded his own filmstrip company which was later bought by McGraw Hill.[5] Many of his filmstrips won awards from the Canadian Film Board and the Educational Film Librarians Association. Gottlieb also wrote and illustrated children's books, including several Golden Books such as The Four Seasons, Tigers Adventure, and Laddie the Superdog. He also wrote educational books such as Science Facts You Won't Believe and Space Flight.

Apart from his photography career, Gottlieb was also involved in amateur tennis as a hobby. Gottlieb and one of his sons, Steven, were often ranked number one in father-and-son on the East Coast and were twice ranked among the top ten teams in the US. Gottlieb's son Steven has also become a professional photographer. Steven Gottlieb's photographs have been featured extensively on the web sites of both Kodak and Nikon, and Kodak has named Steven one of five "Kodak Professional Icons" in the US. Architect I. M. Pei stated that "[Steven] Gottlieb transcends traditional architectural photography by interpreting architecture with the vision of a true artist."

Gottlieb married the former Delia Potofsky, daughter of Jacob Potofsky. They had four children, Barbara, Steven, Richard and Edward. Gottlieb died of complications from a stroke on April 23, 2006 in Great Neck, New York.[1][6]


Sy Oliver, September 1946, by William Paul Gottlieb

In line with Gottlieb's wishes, his photographs were put into the public domain. Many of his pictures are used in Wikipedia and other public domain works.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e Douglas Martin (April 25, 2006). "William Gottlieb, 89, Jazz Photographer". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-08. William P. Gottlieb, who with a boxy, old-fashioned press camera indelibly defined what jazz looked like in a brief, magical time when both early legends like Armstrong and Ellington and the emerging beboppers ruled the bandstands and radio waves, died on Sunday at his home in Great Neck, N.Y. He was 89. The cause was a stroke, his wife, Delia, said.
  2. ^ Teachinghistory.org
  3. ^ "Collection: William P. Gottlieb negatives | Archival Collections". archives.lib.umd.edu. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  4. ^ William P. Gottlieb Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine, AllAboutJazz, accessed 9 November 2010
  5. ^ "UVA Library". www2.lib.virginia.edu.
  6. ^ "William P. Gottlieb, 89; Jazz Journalist's Photos of Performers Captured a Golden Age of Music", Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2006, Jon Thurber
  7. ^ "Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz The William P. Gottlieb Collection at the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 November 2010.

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