Charles Stewart Jazz Portraits Collection

Identifier: MSS.1073

  • Staff Only

Content Description

The Charles Stewart Jazz Portraits Collection consists of five photographs (0.42 ln. ft) of jazz musicians taken in the 1960s by the African American photographer Charles “Chuck” Stewart in New York. Charles Stewart (1927-2017) established himself as a prominent figure within the New York music scene, specializing in capturing renowned jazz musicians. His photographs have been featured on the covers of over 2,000 albums. The collection was purchased though the NMAAM-Vanderbilt University Collections Initiative.


  • circa 1960s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact

Biographical / Historical

Charles “Chuck” Stewart (1927-2017) was an American photographer renowned for his portraits of jazz musicians.

His career started at 13, when he received a Kodak camera as a present. The next day he took photos of the famous singer Marian Anderson, who visited his school, and then sold images to his classmates and teachers. Stewart received his BFA degree in 1948 from Ohio University, one of the only two universities in the country that offered the degree in photography and the only one that would accept African American students. After graduation, he served in the Army as a military photographer, shooting nuclear bomb tests in 1952.

During his college years, Stewart befriended photographer Herman Leonard, who became his mentor and helped him to establish connections with record companies in New York. Given the challenges African American photographers faced in securing employment during that era, Stewart found his niche in photographing jazz musician, capturing the vibrant jazz scene of the 1950s and 1960s. His dedication to present his subjects in the most favorable light, which demonstrated his deep respect for the musicians he photographed, played a pivotal role in granting him access to recording studios and live venues, where he was able to capture intimate and powerful portraits. He took photographs of such artists as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington. These photographs appeared in publications such as Esquire and The New York Times, as well as on more than 2,000 album covers. Although Stewart was most closely associated with jazz musicians, he also photographed rock musicians, such as Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, as well as sports figures such as Myke Tyson. (Julia Khait)


0.42 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



The Charles Stewart Jazz Portraits Collection consists of five photographs of jazz musicians taken in the 1960s by the African-American photographer Charles “Chuck” Stewart (1927-2017) in New York, including photographs of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, and Roy Eldridge.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased through the NMAAM-Vanderbilt University Collections Initiative.

Finding Aid for the Charles Stewart Jazz Portraits Collection
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

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