All of us at The Glenn Gould Foundation are saddened by the death on March 18 of photography legend Don Hunstein at age 88. Heralded as the last of the great record label photographers, Don created iconic images of the legendary musical figures of the 1960’s through the 1980s, including his work with such greats as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Igor Stravinsky, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand and of course, Glenn Gould. Glenn Gould’s albums were adorned by Don’s photographs from the late 1950’s until the end of his career.
Don’s artistry was evident both in his beautiful album cover shots, but also in the candids he took at recording sessions, during the heyday of the major record labels, when staff photographers had the freedom to chronicle the musicians and production teams throughout the recording process.
As the creator of many of the most memorable and lasting images of Glenn Gould, Don came to be a trusted collaborator who worked closely with him, fully respecting the pianist’s ideas and concerns in managing his image. Don Hunstein also captured many of Gould’s most important collaborations, such as his work with Leonard Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski.
Born in St. Louis, MO, Don graduated with a degree in English from Washington University in 1950. While stationed in England with the US Air Force, following his graduation, Don began travelling around Europe and with a Leica camera, began delving into photography. One of his early inspirations was Henri Cartier-Bresson. Back in the US in 1954, Don apprenticed with a commercial photography studio, working with large format cameras and studio lighting In 1956, he went to work in the photo library of Columbia Records. He began taking photographs for the label, and eventually became Director of Photography for CBS Records. He created the photographs for literally hundreds of record album covers and left behind a treasure trove of other portraits taken on the artists’ home turf and at sessions.
He ran the photographic studio created by Columbia records in 1966 until it closed in 1982, after which he spent another four years doing corporate work for CBS before going freelance. A book, Keeping Time: The Photographs of Don Hunstein, was published in 2013.
In the spring of 1991, The Glenn Gould Foundation began work with Don on a photo exhibition of his work with Gould. The result was The Hunstein Variations which was first exhibited at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall at the Glenn Gould International Conference in September 1992. The exhibition has been presented on numerous occasions in Canada and internationally since then.
In 2011, Don shared his recollections of working with Glenn Gould in an interview with The Glenn Gould Foundation’s Penny Johnson. Check it out here.
We extend our deepest condolences to DeeAnn Hunstein for the loss of her beloved husband, and are feeling the loss of one of the finest photographers to turn his focus on the musical life of our times.
Photo Credits: Don Hunstein – Thorsten Overgaard, Glenn Gould – Don Hunstein