The Miles Davis Online Interview: Pieter Boersma


(Artist Series Volume 20)

I have a personal Top Ten list of my favorite Miles Davis photographs. It changes now and then, depending on new photos I might stumble upon. I have a new entry for the top ten, not sure where, but it’s in there.

It’s actually the above photo, shot by the talented photographer Pieter Boersma. A true professional, the Amsterdam-based Boersma has a long and distinguished career photographing everything from Amsterdam history, experimental music, theater, and jazz, to urban landscapes, citizens movements, development policy in Southern African countries, and much more.

I invite everyone to check out the Jazz Collection, which is quite fantastic.

Boersma was kind enough to indulge me for a brief chat about his work and his photos of Miles Davis – an artist he really didn’t bother to follow after 1963. This is our 20th installment of the Artist Series, and I am pleased to celebrate the Miles Davis Online milestone by publishing two of Pieter Boersma’s wonderful photos of Miles Davis, along with his comments.

Miles Davis Online: You feature many wonderful musicians in your collection. Would you say there is something unique about jazz musicians that make them compelling subjects to photograph?
Pieter Boersma: Of all musicians, jazz musicians show more intensity and are less static. It is the desperate attempt of the photographer to grab the music that produces so many jazz pictures, and it is always a failure, at least one grab the atmosphere.

Miles Davis Online: Can you provide a little background on the two beautiful photos of Miles Davis taken at the 1967 De Doelen show in Rotterdam?
Pieter Boersma: It was a so-called Newport Jazz Festival concert. I came in fact for Archie Shepp. Miles played after the pause. There is nothing more to say then I was there anyway. I didn’t buy records of Miles in that time. As I told you, I like Miles very much until 1963 or so. My interest in jazz went more in the direction of Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, [Eric] Dolphy, Coltrane, Shepp, and the free jazz developments in Europe.

Miles Davis Online: You also feature two terrific photos of Miles from 1969, also taken at a De Doelen show.
Pieter Boersma: This was also a NJF concert, and I came for Cecil Taylor.

Miles Davis Online: Would you like to have worked with him more – perhaps away from the stage and more personal?
Pieter Boersma: Of course I should like to photograph him off stage, he is one of the most important jazz musicians ever.

Miles Davis Online: Even from the stage, were you able to get a good sense of what kind of person he was just by shooting photos of him performing?
Pieter Boersma: No not at all. He was, as far as I know, a very introverted person, just doing his job.

Miles Davis Online: What are you working on now?
Pieter Boersma: Working on my archive. Jazz is about 10% of my archive. I did make jazz photo’s because I love the music and I went to concerts anyway… and photography is an ultimate way of time passing. It was and is impossible to earn a living from Jazz photography.

Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Pieter Boersma: Blue Moods, 1955.

© 2012, Pieter Boersma. All artwork, and images of artwork are property of Pieter Boersma. All rights reserved.

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