The thousands of prints and negatives documenting the golden era of jazz as well as New Orleans' more contemporary music scene had long been stored in Leonard's home office, the Chicago Tribune reported.
But with Hurricane Katrina bearing down, Leonard's staff hurriedly arranged to have several thousand of the historical negatives moved to a vault on high ground, saving them from the water that filled his home and destroyed the thousands of prints left behind.
The prints that Leonard spent several years making will not be easily duplicated, the Tribune said. Among his famous subjects were Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie and Lena Horne.
Leonard, 82, fled with his family to Los Angeles two days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
Although much of his life work was destroyed, Leonard told the Tribune his travails were "nowhere near what some people are going through."