Val Wilmer is important as both a writer and photographer. Her first article appeared in Jazz Journal in 1957, when aged just 17.
She has since interviewed and written about countless musicians, some stand-outs including Thelonious Monk, Joe Harriott and Ornette Coleman. Acclaimed books include Jazz People (1970) and As Serious as Your Life (1977). Journal contributions include DownBeat, Melody Maker, The Wire and Jazzwise and obituaries for the Guardian.
Noted photographs include Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington. Val has also photographed and written extensively on black British artists and on women in jazz.
Val’s work is held by collections including the V&A and National Portrait Gallery (London), Musée d’Arte Moderne (Paris) and the Smithsonian Institute (Washington DC). In 1983, along with Maggie Murray, Val co-founded Format, the first all-women photography agency in Britain.
Val’s insightful writings are informed by a feminist perspective and understanding of inequalities faced by black artists and women. Her contribution to transatlantic, multicultural and multiracial dialogue has been invaluable.
Photo of Val Wilmer courtesy of Elainea Emmott.
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