Charles Peterson

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There is a pair of photographers named Charles Peterson who have been extremely active with cover art for albums and CDs. While they come from different eras as well as different regions of the United…
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There is a pair of photographers named Charles Peterson who have been extremely active with cover art for albums and CDs. While they come from different eras as well as different regions of the United States, a case could be made concerning similarities in their methodology. Both were known for their amiable friendships with the musicians they were documenting; both enjoyed long-range relationships with independent labels that were considered "hip," and in both cases these Peterson photos became identified with the unique look of these recording labels.

Nonetheless, the older Chas. Peterson, who photographed many famous classic jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, should not be confused with the shutterbug and eventual video director of the same name whose milieu was a grungy world of punk rock clubs in Seattle. Photos exist of each Charles Peterson passing jovial social time with their musician friends, yet there is a point where their collective activities cannot be considered interchangeable. A good example is the fact that players such as Armstrong and Eddie Condon were such good friends with the jazz photographer that they visited the fifth grade class of Peterson's son in Manhattan. It might not have gone down so smoothly had the late Kurt Cobain or the members of Mudhoney dropped in on a class of toddlers in Seattle.

Beginning in the late 1930s, producer Milt Gabler relied heavily on the older Peterson's material for releases on his Commodore label. The sympathetic nature of Peterson's work and the ease at which he put his subjects may have had a great deal to do with the fact that Peterson himself was a musician, adept on both banjo and guitar. As a player he is more associated with vocal music than instrumental jazz, especially in the era of crooners. Peterson's playing can be heard on vintage sides by singers such as Rudy ValleƩ and Annette Henshaw. His portrait of the lovely "Lady Day" at the age of 24 is often considered his photographic masterpiece. He apparently got into the photographic arts because of the insecurity of the music business.