Born in Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany, Otto Friedrich Hess (1906-1968) immigrated to the United States in 1930 from Bremerhaven, Germany. Upon reaching New York City, the twenty-three year old German émigré moved in with his brother Franz, an advertising photographer, in Brooklyn. Hess's initial occupation was in sales, but during this time he was honing his photography skills so that by 1940, photography had become his primary source of income. Starting in 1942, he spent several years in the U.S. Army. Upon return from the Army, Hess began exhibiting his work, including at galleries such as the Norlyst Gallery.
Hess is best known for the photographs he produced during the 1930s and 1940s, which document various facets of New York City cultural life, ranging from theatrical and musical performances to sporting events and social occasions. He photographed several important jazz musicians during his career, including Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, W.C. Handy, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, and Gene Krupa.
Adapted from: The New York Public Library, Digital Collections