Over the two decades Lauren Deutsch has been photographing jazz musicians, she’s found that often her best pictures aren’t necessarily the sharpest or the most rigorously composed. She likes the ones that evoke the spirit of the music–sometimes through the demeanor of the musician and sometimes through the texture of the image.

Deutsch, who’s executive director of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, says Harlem photographer Roy De Carava is her hero. “He showed me how to work with what’s available in a given situation.” She never uses a flash; instead, to photograph in dark, smoky bars she experiments with slow shutter speeds and sometimes moves the camera as she shoots.

Her photos of individual musicians feature sharp contrasts, the result of “pushing” the film, which creates bottomless blacks in the background and leaves the instrument and the musician’s face and hands bright in the foreground. Her newer work–“mosaics” in which a single image is repeated in different configurations–began a couple of years ago with what she describes as a “peripheral vision” in her mind.

Working with a favorite image of Joseph Jarman, she started moving the paper under the enlarger at different angles. In doing this, she discovered that she could both get multiple effects from one negative and connect physically with the music. “I like to describe what happened as turning the negative inside out,” she says. The resulting print is a sort of mandala in which Jarman and his alto saxophone appear facing in four different directions. Other pictures are more abstract. Sound, for example, is composed of photographs cut up and arranged as a collage that seems to explode from the center.

“You take what is given to you,” Deutsch says, “and learn how to work with it, which is what improvisers do when they’re playing.”

“Sound In/Sight,” an exhibit of Deutsch’s work, is on display at the Three Arts Club, 1300 N. Dearborn, through February 17. It’s free and open from 10 to 5, seven days a week. Call 312-944-6250 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Lauren Deutsch.