This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Irene Haupt documents visual history of UB music

Published: November 11, 2004

Reporter Contributor

Over the years, Irene Haupt has captured the images of some of the most significant composers and performers of the past quarter century—many of whom have performed at UB or were on the faculty or lectured in the university's Department of Music. The list includes such renowned names as Åaron Copeland. Jan Williams. Lukas Foss. Philip Glass and John Cage, among others.


Some of the most significant composers and performers of the past quarter century, including (from top) Lukas Foss, Aaron Copeland and Philip Glass, have performed or taught at UB.

A UB alumna herself, Haupt has become, in effect, the unofficial photographer of the music department and its annual June in Buffalo new music festival, recording what has become a visual history of the arts and music scene in Buffalo since the 1970s.

She has teamed up with the UB Music Library to exhibit more than 30 of her music photographs, as well as some personal photographs. "The Photography of Irene Haupt" will be on display in the music library, 104 Baird Hall, North Campus, through Jan. 14.

Her collection of composer photos, including an entire case devoted to Leo Smit, a UB composer and musician, and dear friend to Haupt, features some of the subjects in casual poses. The photographer says she likes to catch her subjects off guard and show their "inner qualities." "They are more themselves when they are done performing," she notes.

Haupt, who graduated from the UB art department magna cum laude in 1979 and began taking photographs of the Buffalo arts scene in 1976, recalls the magnetism of the exotic musical hub of UB during that decade. She points out that it was much more experimental and free than today.

"This cellist, Charlotte Mormon, performed nude in a plastic bag, and I remember at Kleinhans, they just had metronomes ticking for two hours by themselves on a stage," she says.

Haupt hopes the exhibit will enrich students' knowledge of UB history.

"It shows students what fabulous composers have gone through the university," she says. "Students should know the richness of the history of the music department and June in Buffalo."

The exhibition also features some of Haupt's personal photographs, which at times appear to be three dimensional, causing the viewer to almost visually peel back layers. Her portraits pop out from the paper, also capturing different sides, or layers, of humanity.

Haupt says she purposely creates this effect, viewing her work as a compression of time and experience. She says she looks to such writers as James Joyce, as well as to composers, who layer sounds, rhythms and words into their works for inspiration. The photographs provide what she describes as "a kind of elusive alchemy, the results of which are not predictable, but a divination of a more complex reality."

Haupt says she's also influenced by a German female theater photographer, Rosemarie Clausen, who documented actors' energy in such shows as "Faust." She likes films from the 1930s, particularly those directed by Jean Cocteau, like "Obvious" and "Belle et le Bête" or "Beauty and the Beast."

"These were life-changing movies," Haupt says. "If you see the movies, you will understand my photos. They are very dream-like, black and white movies."

Some of Haupt's haunting photos include misty scenes of boats that she created with just small wooden vessels the size of a hand.

"The ideas for the photos just came to me," Haupt remembers. "The boat against the waves reminds me of the soul going through consciousness and unconsciousness, creating its own meaning of life."

John Bewley, associate librarian/archivist in the Music Library, notes that the idea for a Haupt exhibition was "sort of on the radar for a while," and its opening in September was perfectly timed for Gender Week.

Bewley says the music department is working to digitize Haupt's entire collection of UB music photos—a collection of between 400 and 500 photos—and make it available online by next year.

Haupt's photos have appeared on many record jackets and book covers, as well as in more than 50 exhibits in such venues as the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center at Buffalo State College, the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, CEPA Gallery, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Art Dialogue.

Haupt also has worked for almost all of the theaters in Buffalo—at present she is taking photographs for the Irish Classical Theater.

Her photography has been mentioned in such national publications such as The New York Times and Time magazine, and television shows like "60 Minutes."