Gottlieb, William P. 1917-2006

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GOTTLIEB, William P. 1917-2006
(William Paul Gottlieb)


See index for CA sketch: Born January 28, 1917, in New York, NY; died of a stroke, April 23, 2006, in Great Neck, NY. Photographer, journalist, and author. An expert on jazz music who wrote many articles on the subject as a columnist and reporter, Gottlieb was best known for the photographs he took of jazz musicians that were later reproduced in his The Golden Age of Jazz: On-Location Portraits, in Words and Pictures, of More Than Two Hundred Outstanding Musicians from the Late Thirties through the Forties (1979). Orphaned while still a teenager, he studied economics at Lehigh University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa. A bout of trichinosis left him bed ridden, and when a friend brought him jazz records to listen to, Gottlieb was hooked. When he recovered, he went back to university and wrote a jazz column for one of the school's magazines. Completing a B.S. in 1938, he found work as an advertising solicitor for the Washington Post, for which he also penned a Sunday edition jazz column. While with the newspaper, he learned photography, bought himself an inexpensive camera, and began taking pictures of jazz musicians. His main focus was on interviews, though, and he met and wrote stories on such greats as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Miles Davis. Never thinking the pictures he took would one day be widely hailed, Gottlieb left the newspaper in 1941 for graduate studies in economics at the University of Maryland, where he also taught briefly. He left teaching, though, when the university refused to allow him to lead a class on jazz music. Finding work as an economist for the U.S. Office of Price Administration, he stayed there until he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. Suitably, he was made a photo officer. With the war over, he returned to journalism as a writer, editor, and photographer for Down Beat. Next, in 1949, he founded William Gottlieb Co. in New York City and was president of University Films. When publisher McGraw-Hill bought University Films in 1968, Gottlieb remained its president for ten more years. Interestingly, Gottlieb had yet another career as a children's book author, publishing ten books during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as creating filmstrips for children. Among his juvenile titles are Laddie and the Little Rabbit (1952), Farmyard Friends (1956), and Space Flight and How It Works (1964). His filmstrips earned him thirteen awards from the Educational Film Librarians Association's American Film Festival. During all this time, his photographs remained in storage until a book store proprietor successfully argued that he publish them. The Golden Age of Jazz has since been hailed as one of the most outstanding photographic collections of jazz musicians ever published. The U.S. Postal Service, in fact, based several of its stamps on images Gottlieb had taken. The photographer eventually sold thousands of his photographs to the Library of Congress. Named Jazz Photographer of the Year in 1999 at the New York Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, Gottlieb was also the author of several adult books, including Photography, with Basic Cameras: A Family Activity Book (1953) and This is the NMU: A Picture History of the National Maritime Union of America C.I.O. (1956).



New York Times, April 25, 2006, p. B7.