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Photographer William Ellis Releases Set of Silver Gelatin Prints

New series features jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Bennett

Nancy Wilson by William Ellis
A photograph of Nancy Wilson from William Ellis’ archive

British photographer William Ellis, whose work can be seen in the permanent collections of the American Jazz Museum and the National Portrait Gallery London, among others, is releasing a set of handmade silver gelatin prints from his archive of long-forgotten images of jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Bennett. During his time in quarantine lockdown in 2020, Ellis spent many hours reviewing his extensive archive of film negatives and rediscovered these photographs.

Inspired by his findings, Ellis decided to venture back into the analog world by using a craft process that dates back to the 1880s to create each gelatin print by hand using the original negatives. In a press release given to JT, Ellis said, “Rediscovering the negatives inspired me to set up a Tardis-like darkroom and, after a 20-year digitally incurred gap, I began the wonderful odyssey of editing images you could hold in your hand and again to make beautiful silver gelatin prints of jazz greats. In my mind, no other print type exhibits the depth and captivating presence of a silver gelatin photograph.” Because the process relies on visual judgment and technical skills, each print is unique. Each photograph in the series is embossed and numbered by hand from an edition of only 20 worldwide and is presented in a hand-cut double thickness mount ready to frame.

Previously, Ellis has worked on the OneLP Project, a photography series that “explores the inspirational qualities of jazz recordings and the impact they have on people’s lives.” The portraits are of a range of artists, from photographers such as Lynn Goldsmith and Guy Webster to musicians such as Marcus Miller, Fred Hersch, and Sheila Jordan. Each portrait features the subject holding a recording that is of fundamental importance to them, accompanied by a short interview that explores the meaning and value of the selected album. The premier exhibition of OneLP was held at the ARChive of Contemporary Music in New York.

For more information on Ellis’ prints, visit his website.