10 Jazz Greats as described by Kirk Silsbee
In the brief but intense period when he made them, the jazz photographs of Ave Pildas were seldom seen and scarcely noted. From 1962 to 1964, the young photographer took his camera to nightclubs, after-hours spots and festivals in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Stored in Pildas’ studio in Santa Monica till recently, the images provide a window on the music from two cities that were part of the Midwestern jazz circuit some fifty years ago.
The best Pildas jazz photographs utilize abstraction as a means to express their subjects. Trained as a designer in the modernist sensibility, Pildas relied on a photograph’s formal elements – the line, the value, the shapes in the settings that framed the performers- to express emotional states.
Pildas preferred to photograph live performance. Much like it did of the musicians, the situation of the concert demanded of the photographer ingenuity, quick decision-making, intuition and luck; timing was everything. Pildas improvised in response to changing conditions on stage and available light. This spontaneous approach opened a broader field of possibilities for expressive rather than descriptive portrayals.
Pildas was inspired by the methodology of one of his idols in photography, Henri Cartier Bresson. Bresson was noted for carefully observing a situation and waiting patiently before clicking the shutter. “Bresson was ready for the moment,” Pildas points out. “He seemed to know when something was going to happen.” Pildas described waiting for the right confluence of circumstances on stage. “Sometimes,” he recalls, “a guy would rock back and forth. When that happened, I found a point in the picture plane and when he rocked into that point, I took the photo.”