Francine was a multidisciplinary artist and philanthropist who gave new life to Joldwynds from the 60s onwards with her love for Jazz and the arts. The house became a creative hub for performance, debate and other creative events. Francine was an activist for equality who merged work and life into one, putting her energy and enthusiasm into everything she did. She also started Joldwynds Jazz, a bursary charity to help struggling artists. Her early passing due to cancer left a great void but her nieces continue in her footsteps.
Learn more about Francine Winham below.
1937 - 2013
Francine Winham was born in England in the late 1930s and grew up in London during the austere post-war years of the 1950s. She became a photographer almost by accident whilst working for music impresario Chris Blackwell after her father bought her a Rolliflex camera as a birthday present. Blackwell suggested that to save costs she should shoot the record covers of the reggae, soul and ska albums his new label, Island Records, was releasing. And so a life long love of photography began.
In 1963 she moved to New York and found work with montage photographer David Attee, later branching out on her own as a freelance photojournalist. Her overriding passion became the vibrant energy of the New York jazz scene: “I had grown up with jazz, and New York was the heart of the jazz world at this time. It was very exciting. You could go down to clubs like the Gate or Village Vanguard and see all the great names performing live – Davis, Monk, Coltrane, Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone – the list was endless.”
Francine began shooting these stars, selling the results to magazines such as Downbeat and the Village Voice.
“Jazz clubs were perfect for me. I liked to get close, really close, and see the expression on a performer’s face. That’s what really interests me, the intimacy.” The results were full-frame facial shots, isolating the subject from their surroundings and capturing the intensity and drama (or comedy) of the moment.
It was during this time that Francine developed what she later called her ‘fever’ technique. By holding the shot still for half a second and then moving the camera, she created a blurred, free-form image that mirrored the dynamic improvisation of the performer.
In 1965, borrowing a press pass from a friend and armed with her camera she set off for the primary event of the East Coast jazz calendar – the Newport Jazz Festival. “Ever since I’d seen the film ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’ I’d wanted to go to Newport. It was like the Holy Grail for me, a chance to see all the stars in one place – and photograph them too.” The result was a unique record of some of the greatest names in jazz history, every picture infused with mood and sensuality, living legends in mid-flow, singing, puffing and sweating their way through performance. “What I like about jazz singers and musicians is that their love of music is combined with a kind of humility. They can’t describe how or why they feel happy or sad, it just simply overwhelms them.”
Following a brief foray into film-making in the 70s, Francine returned to photography and jazz in the 1990s in London, working for newly created radio station Jazz FM. “I organized an exhibition to launch the station entitled ‘100 Years of Jazz’ and began attending the festivals again, this time in Europe at Maastricht and Nice, as well as London’s own Soho Jazz Festival. It was a strange feeling of nostalgia shooting again some of the old stars I’d shot in the 60s, to see how they’d weathered the years. But there were exciting new talents emerging as well, such as Steve Williamson and Courtney Pine.”
Francine continued performing and taking photographs right up to the end and has exhibited her work in New York, London, Athens and Cape Town. We will soon be exhibiting her work here.
Francine was also cinematographer, producer, camera operator, screenwriter and member of the London Women Film Group. She co-directed the first all-female production funded by the BFI Production Board with Susan Shapiro and Esther Roney, the experimental feminist piece on the impact of patriarcal storytelling "Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair" (1978). Previously she directed the dark comedy short "Careless Love" (1976) and "Put Yourself In My Place" (1974).