Duncan Schiedt married two hobbies and made a career. His union of photography and jazz proved a successful experiment through the decades. The span of his work and his acquaintance with jazz performers and venues, as evidenced in his portraits of jazz greats at various clubs and festivals, was a triumph.
Schiedt was born in 1921 in Atlantic City, N.J. He attended George Washington High School, where he discovered swing music and an interest in photography. In 1938, Schiedt purchased an Argus C, his first decent camera. He merged music and photography as he took photos in Times Square movie palaces, nightclubs and at big band shows. Eventually, Schiedt made a home in Indianapolis, where he became acquainted with the local jazz scene. This led to his involvement with the Indianapolis Jazz Club in 1956.
Schiedt continued photographing jazz for five decades, amassing a large portfolio and collection. A portion of this collection, which includes the photographs that showcase Schiedt’s skill and knowledge of jazz and photography, came to the Indiana Historical Society after his death in March 2014. His portraits, all in black-and-white, show a tonal range and quality as impressive as the notes played by its subjects, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. Schiedt’s photographs capture not only jazz music and its greats, but also its history, emotion, and Schiedt’s own love and dedication to his craft.
The Indiana Historical Society has recently digitized selections from Schiedt’s work and made them available to view through the Duncan Schiedt Digital Collection here.