William Claxton died on Saturday of congestive heart failure, one day shy of his 81st birthday, at a hospital near his home in Los Angeles.
He was best known as a jazz photographer, but was a stalwart of the photo community in Los Angeles for many years, photographing movie stars and musicians of all kinds. He did many album covers and published 14 books, including the famous Jazz Life, issued by Taschen in a slipcased 25th Anniversary edition only a few weeks ago (there is also a deluxe edition). He exhibited widely, and his pictures were published in many magazines, including LIFE, Paris Match, and Vogue.
He was a founding member of the Recording Academy, the organization that runs the Grammy Awards.
He also worked as a fashion photographer, most famously photographing designer Rudi Gernreich's "topless swimsuit" in 1964. The model was Peggy Moffit Claxton, to whom the photographer was married for 49 years.
His publisher and friend, Benedikt Taschen, said of Claxton, "he was a great photographer and a wonderful man who touched the lives of his friends through his generosity, charm and kindness."
Mike (thanks to Tim)
Featured Comment by Ron W: "Sorry to hear that. He is not the only noteworthy jazz photographer to pass. Michael Smith passed away a few weeks ago. He documented every New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival until health issues forced him to retire, along with Mardi Gras Indians, the Spiritual Churches and so much more. Did not mean to hijack the obit of Mr. Claxton who may be better known, but I would think that many may have seen some of Mr. Smith's work."