Pioneering African American celebrity photography Bill Jones passed away at his Los Angeles on June 25, as a result of complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Jones came to prominence in his career at a time when very few black photographers worked the celebrity beat and black celebrities were seldom seen in major magazines.
He started photographing the black glitterati after moving to Los Angeles in 1972.
“As a black man, it was very difficult at the time when I started,” Jones told The Mansfield News Journal of Ohio in 2006. “It was tough to get a space in what we call ‘the line,’ meaning the line of photographers taking shots of the celebrities.”
From Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou, from early on, Jones focused his career on documenting black celebrities. His work soon became a fixture in black publications like Ebony and Jet.
Celebrities would often ask for Jones by name to take their picture at major events and he was even granted exclusive access.
In 2006, Hollywood in Black: 40 Years of Photography by Bill Jones, a retrospective book featuring some of his best known images was published. That same year, the Hollywood Black Film Festival honored Jones with an special exhibition celebrating his work.
Jones is survived by his daughters Michelle Jones and Natalie Jones as well as three sisters, Ruth Foster, Betty Jordan and Dorothy Sanders; a brother, Booker Jordan; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.