Obituary: Celebrity Photographer Bill Jones, 81

Posted by on Wednesday July 13, 2016 | Obituary

Bill Jones, who photographed black celebrities in Hollywood as well as Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, died at his home in Los Angeles on June 25. The cause of death was dementia, The New York Times reports. A contributor to Ebony, Jet, The L.A. Watts Times and other publications, Jones was one of the first black photographers to cover red carpet events in Hollywood.

In a 2006 interview, Jones said that when he began working in Hollywood, ““It was tough to get a space in what we called ‘the line,’” – the line of photographers taking shots of celebrities.” However, “Being the only black photographer, other black actors and actresses would come to me and let me take whatever pictures I wanted,” Jones said. (The interview is quoted in Jones’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times, available here.)

Jones began taking photos while he was in the Air Force. He photographed Muhammed Ali in the early 1960s, and photographed Dr. King on the civil rights leader’s trip to Los Angeles in 1964. While Jones was stationed in England, he took photography courses at the London School of Photography. He retired from the Air Force in 1972, and settled in Los Angeles, and earned a master’s degree in business from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1976. He began taking photos at events and awards shows, and was soon hired to photograph the Talented Teens Competition. He gradually built his editorial clientele by focusing on black subjects, including Quincy Jones, Richard Roundtree, Eddie Murphy, Sidney Poitier and Magic Johnson. He photographed Halle Berry and Denzel Washington at the Academy Awards in 2002, standing together and holding their Oscar statuettes triumphantly in the air.

Full obituaries on Jones have been published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.


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