Milton J. Hinton: Gerry Sanfino, Hank Freeman, Fred Norman and Dinah Washington, recording studio, New York City

Milton J. Hinton, 1910-2000

Gerry Sanfino, Hank Freeman, Fred Norman and Dinah Washington, recording studio, New York City

c 1963

16” x 20″

Gelatin Silver Print

Purchased with funding from the State of New York. Percent for Art Program, 2001


Dinah Washington, centered in the photo, stands with her arms crossed in front of her as she works with the arranger, Fred Norman, in a recording studio in 1963. They are working on one of her last albums, Back to the Blues. She wears a stylish women’s suit with a patterned blouse underneath her jacket and a turban-like hat, Fred Norman is wearing a fedora tilted back on his head as he faces away from the camera to speak to her. The studio musicians, Gerry Sanfino and Hank Freeman are seated behind music stands to the left, watching the legendary singer and her arranger in discussion.

When this photo was taken, Dinah Washington was already a legend. She sang with Lionel Hampton in the 1940s and spent the next 20 years singing, touring, and recording Jazz standards, torch songs, and the Blues. She was known for her distinctive voice and precise diction when singing.

Looking at her face in this photo, she looks like a woman in full command of her talent, confident and, with her eyebrows raised, explaining something very clearly. Off to the side, the session musicians are watching her, listening to what she has to say. What makes this image powerful is seeing Dinah Washington, the only woman in the studio, the focal point, and the person garnering the most attention and respect.

Taken by Milton Hinton, a celebrated Jazz musician in his own right, this image shows part of the world of musicians that the public rarely sees. Viewing this photo, seeing her stand so powerfully and knowing that she would be dead of an overdose within the year, having left behind an album that has been viewed as one of her best, is bittersweet.

This is Rachel Deen, I am a grad student in the Arts Administration program at Baruch College in the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. Thank you for listening!

Dinah Washington, Back to the Blues on YouTube