William Claxton (American, 1927-2008)

Claxton was an American photographer born in Pasadena, California whose portraits of famous pop culture figures, including jazz musicians and movie stars, infused his aesthetics with the energy of the West Coast. Instead of portraying musicians in dark, underground settings of jazz clubs, he positioned them in the sunlight in their cars, on the beach, or on the streets. His photograph of Chet Baker depicts the singer with actress Liliane Rovére pressed against Rovére’s chest. The photo is high contrast with both subjects clothed in black. In it, Claxton manages to capture the same improvisational, connective quality of jazz.

Claxton studied psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Early in his career, he designed and shot album covers with Pacific Jazz Covers. His work can be found in The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the National Museum of American History, Washington DC.