Duncan Schiedt was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and schooled there, in England, and in New York, where he resided from 1936. With an almost simultaneous interest in the new “swing” music and amateur photography, his proximity to much of the jazz and the opportunity to document musical greats led him to concentrate on this special area of photography, though only in a hobby sense. Through the years, a significant historical archive came into being, always with a sense of the real personalities of his subjects.
With WW2 service behind him (as a photographic officer) he was recruited to be a photographer at the historic atom bomb test series at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Similar assignments in the Pacific took him abroad for subsequent test series, the last being in 1950. In the meantime, Schiedt operated an advertising and fashion studio in New York, and also did theatrical photography.
He began a career in writing while in New York, resulting in a biography of pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller titled Ain’t Misbehavin’. Newly married, he and his bride moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he continued his interests in jazz while working in photography. Aware of the rich musical history of this state, he published a book on the subject – The Jazz State of Indiana – still in print under the auspices of the Indiana Historical Society.
A third book, utilizing many of his own photographs as well as rare items from his collection, presented twelve essays on pioneer jazz figures. The volume, published in Italy, is called Twelve Lives in Jazz. Schiedt's latest work is Jazz in Black and White, a deluxe presentation of some seventy of his most memorable jazz portraits, along with brief biographies and memoirs of the photo sessions themselves. An ongoing activity for him is art gallery and museum exhibitions of his work, which take him across the country.
At age 92, Schiedt looked back on his sixty-five years of photographing musicians all across the country.
Duncan Schiedt passed away on March 12, 2014 after a brief illness at his residence in Pittsboro, a small town west of Indianapolis.