When he was in his twenties, Hugh Bell began photographing musicians and performers at jazz clubs around New York City. The archive contains an important collection of images of jazz personalities, ranging from Duke Ellington to Lester Young. There are photographs of a number of these artists taken from different moments in time; most noteworthy among these is a series on Billie Holiday, which were exhibited in the "Art of Jazz" exhibition at the Cooper Gallery at Harvard University in 2016.
A number of Bell’s jazz photographs have now achieved iconic status: Bell’s photograph, “Hot Jazz” was selected for the Family of Man exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955. His image of Benny Goodman was used as the basis for a USPS stamp issue in 1996, and Bell’s portrait of Sarah Vaughn was used as the basis for another USPS stamp issue released in 2016. Bell’s jazz photographs are known collectively as the “Jazz Giants” series, and have been exhibited together at various venues.
The collection also contains approximately a dozen vinyl album covers that feature Bell’s jazz photographs, ranging from Cannonball Adderly to Sarah Vaughan.