Can I Get a Witness: Photographs by Herb Snitzer
“Inequality for one is inequality for all.”
Throughout his long and still-evolving career, Herb Snitzer (American, b. 1932) has captured candid, soul-baring images of people from all walks of life. Internationally renowned for his iconic photographs of jazz musicians, his work over the past sixty years also includes compelling images of the struggle for social justice and equal rights, for which he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP in 2005. Snitzer’s photographs have been featured in LIFE, Fortune, and TIME, among many other publications. His work is collected by major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Can I Get a Witness presents Snitzer’s remarkably broad artistic vision in 45 images, ranging from street scenes of 1950s New York, to jazz legend Louis Armstrong on the road in 1960, to activists participating in the 2017 Women’s March. It also showcases selections from the recently shared portfolio, Such Sweet Thunder, focusing on iconic musicians committed to social justice such as Nina Simone, a legendary jazz singer and activist who used her voice for empowerment. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, in Florida.Read more
Snitzer’s work reflects a deep empathy and desire for social justice that runs in his blood. Describing himself as Jewish by descent and Quaker by choice, he was born in the United States to parents who had fled pogroms in Ukraine. Drawn by the vitality of Manhattan, Snitzer moved to the West Side in the 1950s, capturing images of the city’s multicultural atmosphere. Later, as the photo editor for the music magazine Metronome, he photographed many of the best jazz musicians of the 50s and 60s—including John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk—as they played New York clubs. During the 1980s, Snitzer shot some of his most compelling works at international jazz festivals, working with icons like Miles Davis. His move to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1992 resulted in new subject matter and refocused his attention upon social justice, such as his wrenching images taken at police brutality demonstrations. At the same time, he is fascinated by exultations of the human spirit, as evidenced by his photographs of the St. Pete Pride Festival. Snitzer remains committed to capturing the rich, unfolding tapestry of life, with all its joys and sorrows, its pageantry and protests.