We were very sad to hear about the passing of David Redfern, founder of Redferns Music Picture Library and a great music photographer, last week. He died in France, a country he loved, on Wednesday 22nd October where he finally lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer at the age of 78. A long-standing BAPLA member, David joined the BAPLA board in 1978 for a short stint until 1980 but re-joined the Board as BAPLA President in 1989, a role he fulfilled until he stepped down in 2013, after Redferns was sold to Getty Images.
David contributed greatly to our industry both professionally and personally and he will be missed by so many people in so many ways. However, his legacy remains and we have the fantastic images he created throughout his life to remember him by. There is so much that could be said, but for the moment, we will simply say an enormous “thank you” to David for all that he did, and leave you with some memories from a couple of BAPLA members who shared David’s time on the Board
From Paul Brown, Mary Evans Picture Library (BAPLA board 1981-2011, Chairman 2004-2011)
“I was very sad to hear the news about David. For me he was one of the mainstays of BAPLA in all the time I knew him, and as President he was always the calm voice that put everything into perspective or considered things from a different angle. You always knew when David was in a room. He had a presence which was hard to miss; a gravitas and professionalism that seemed inherent to who he was. He was truly a gentle giant. I remember one of the first times I met him at a BAPLA party which he hosted at his studio years ago, and him towering over me as we were introduced, but he simply enveloped my hand in his and made me feel completely welcome and at ease.
Above all though, David was an inspiration on how to live life. He filled his life with everything he loved and his zest for life was infectious. Despite being ill, he filled the last few years with travelling, photography and jazz. His last email to friends with news of his exploits over the summer included photographing Buddy Guy and many others at the Vienna Jazz Festival, a Radio Two interview and a Norwegian cruise. He was also looking forward to the London Jazz Festival in November and an exhibition of his work next year. David really did make the most of life and certainly inspired me to do the same. He has touched the lives of so many people, and he will be missed. A great loss to us all, but his legacy lives on through his work.”
From Sal Shuel, Collections Picture Library (BAPLA Administrator 1984-1995)
“I loved David Redfern unreservedly, warts and all and I was one of many. He was physically a hugely attractive man with an engaging personality to match, a great bear of a man, women were inclined to hug him. He was also a wonderful photographer. All the best jazz photographs seem to have been taken by David, musicians respected him and got him into places where others might have been denied. When the US produced a set of stamps of jazz musicians, they chose David’s photograph of Louis Armstrong rather than one by an American. One of my proudest possessions is his stunning portrait of Jimi Hendrix which never ceases to give me pleasure.
David joined an infant BAPLA around 1978 as a small, independent library, one of a handful who were determined that Small was Beautiful and the large libraries needed to be put in their place. He was enthusiastic and helpful in making BAPLA the vital trade association that it became, seldom if ever missed events, was always supportive and had a charismatic personality which gave BAPLA a certain gravitas wherever he appeared to represent it. He became President in 1989, reluctantly because his business was flourishing and he had insufficient time to take on the chores of being Chairman but being President was less labour intensive. He stayed President for ever because there was nobody better. Like jazz musicians, other photographers, picture editors, picture researchers and all the hangers-on seemed to respect him. In the early days he functioned from his studio in Longacre where he also lived illegally, much to the envy of everyone. His library was established in 1960, embraced all sorts of popular music, jazz and folk. and included ‘Beauty, Glamour, Tasteful Nudes, Couple Situations, Party and Disco Scenes and Sunsets’ but they seem to have disappeared early. Jazz was what mattered and in order to finance expensive trips to the States, he would stop off in New York and shoot off endless skyscapes over the city, whole reels of 35mm, all identical, all of which went to Tony Stone who never had to make expensive dupes of them. The repro fees paid for the trip to New Orleans. David acquired a tiny and expensive camera which he reckoned would be his salvation. Like other photographers at events he sometimes found it difficult to gain working admission to concerts. Nobody took this tiny camera seriously and he managed to get into lots of clubs and concerts without being stopped.
When I was BAPLA treasurer, he was always the last to pay his subscription which was a standing joke. He was a great committee member, wouldn’t put up with any nonsense, poured a fair amount of oil on troubled waters and laughed at anyone who took themselves too seriously although he took photography and the rights of photographers very seriously indeed – but he preferred to be at jazz festivals than photographic events.
I have grown too old to mourn the passing of those with whom I was once young. It happens too often these days. David Redfern has left a wonderful legacy. Such people never die.”