SLIDESHOW: Previously never before seen images of Portland’s jazz scene circa 1954 from Carl J. Henniger

Tucked inside a drawer, in a garage in Southeast Portland, is a collection of photo negatives. Cataloged with an image of a young boy triumphantly lifting two trout is likely a previously unknown photo of Duke Ellington. Then there’s Ella Fitzgerald. There’s Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong. They’re all in playing Portland. 

The boy with the trout, Michael Henniger, grew up and is now scanning his father’s old photos into a laptop.

“I learned how to take photos from my dad. He had a great eye,” Henniger said. “These photos came about because he was stringer for Downbeat from 1954–1956.”

His father, Carl Henniger, was a young advertising salesman for The Oregonian newspaper, but in 1954 Carl Henniger was also moonlighting as a freelance photographer. Michael thinks the side gigs helped pay for the family’s move from St. John’s to Beaverton.

“Dad and Mom were very into jazz, I think it was left over from the big band era. They ran in arty circles in Portland,” Henniger said. His parents met working on the yearbook at Oregon State University — he was the chief photographer, she was the editor.

Henniger says he’s thinking of printing a good number of his father’s photos in hopes of exhibiting them somewhere in town.

“If you want to take good pictures — have a camera with you,” Henniger said. “That was sort of my dad’s mantra.”

About Jazz Town

Jazz Town explores the neighborhood, politics and music behind Portland’s brief, brilliant jazz age in the 1940s and 50s. This short-lived period is largely unknown to many Oregonians. Learn about the neighborhood from residents who lived there, watch Oregon Experience’s documentary and see how Portland jazz has evolved over the past 70 years.