Val Wilmer, writer and photographer

Desert Island Discs

03-03-2024 • 38 mins

Val Wilmer has photographed and interviewed many of the most significant musicians of the post-war years, including Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and many more.

Val grew up in Streatham in South London, where a local record shop helped to nurture her love of music, especially jazz. Her lifelong passion for jazz and photography began at an early age: when she was just 14 years old, she persuaded her mother to take her to London Airport to see off the jazz legend Louis Armstrong who had been playing in the UK. She asked him for an autograph, then took a picture of him as he broke into a huge smile. The image was the first of many classic shots.

Alongside her work as a photographer, Val has written extensively about music, as a journalist for numerous publications and as an author: her book As Serious As Your Life, examining the evolution of free jazz within the wider context of racial and sexual politics, has been widely acclaimed as a classic text.

In 1983 she co-founded Format, the first all-female photographic agency, which aimed to champion women photographers and to widen the range of images available to newspapers and magazines.

Her photographs are held in the collections of the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery.

DISC ONE: Potato Head Blues - Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven DISC TWO: Black, Brown And White - Big Bill Broonzy DISC THREE: Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8_1. By Kodaly, First movement performed by Janos Starker DISC FOUR: The Weary Blues – Langston Hughes DISC FIVE: My Lovely Elizabeth - S.E. Rogie DISC SIX: Criss Cross - Thelonious Monk DISC SEVEN: Dogon A D - Julius Hemphill DISC EIGHT: Love and Affection - Joan Armatrading

BOOK CHOICE: The Collective Works of Langston Hughes LUXURY ITEM: Nail scissors CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Criss Cross - Thelonious Monk

Presenter Lauren Laverne Producers Tim Bano and Sarah Taylor

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