Collection: Carl Henniger


As a child, Carl Henniger was fascinated by photography and flight. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his father took a job and moved the family to Portland, Oregon during the summer after 8th grade. In high school he joined the photography club and then at Oregon State College, he took undergraduate photography courses. He became a staff photographer for the student newspaper and the principal photographer for the OSC yearbook, "the 1942 Beaver."

With the outbreak of WWII, Carl pursued his other passion, flight. He joined the Army Air Corps, earned his wings and a became a flight instructor in Marfa, Texas. In August of 1944 he became a father to twin boys, Michael and Peter. At the end of the war he returned to Portland where he took a job with the state's largest newspaper, "The Oregonian." His salary as a junior display advertising salesman was occasionally augmented when clients did not have photographs of the subjects they wanted to advertise. He purchased a 4x5 Speed Graphic and joined the Oregon Camera Club for access to darkroom equipment and facilities. By 1952 his family had added two girls and outgrew his modest North Portland home. 

Portland was a major shipbuilder during the war with Kaiser shipyards producing Liberty Ships for the war. This economic activity supported a boom in entertainment and leisure endeavors. Bars, ballrooms and dance clubs became very popular and Portland became a major stop for jazz tours on the national and west coast tour circuit. Carl took advantage of his love of jazz, his skill at photography and his access to wire photo equipment at "The Oregonian" to establish a stronger relationship with "Down Beat Magazine." Between 1953 and 1955, Carl took pictures of every major jazz artist or band playing in Portland with his 4x5 Speed Graphic. 

Carl would attend concerts before, during and after performances, creating candid and performance images. He would then develop and print the images the same night and transmit them via "The Oregonian" wire photo equipment to New York. If an image was published, Carl would get a check in the mail. By the end of 1955, Carl had earned enough money to move his family into a new three-bedroom home in Beaverton, Oregon. Having met his goal, he stopped the stronger effort and stored his negatives in the garage. 

Carl died in 2009. His oldest son Michael discovered the jazz negatives in 2016 while searching for an early family photo. Initially unable to read the negatives, Michael purchased a scanner and began to reveal a stunning archive of jazz history. In all a total of 385 images were scanned over four months. Michael has exhibited some of these images at several venues after receiving a grant from the Regional Art and Culture Council of Oregon to cover printing and exhibit expenses. 

Carl Henniger