Monday, May 9, 2011

Rock Photographer Jim Marshall

The master at work

Influences to our own photography comes from a wide variety of sources depending on our inclinations.  I count Jim Marshall as one of my main influences, not only because of my interest in 'Rock/Music Photography' as a specific specialization, but also because he was such a terrific master Portraitist.  Like the best portrait painters (and photographers), he captured the essence of his subjects superficially as well as subliminally.  His iconic portraits of 'Rock' legends graced album covers and the covers of music magazines, and are now highly prized as collectibles by music fans worldwide.

Inconspicuously present with his Leicas, shooting in 'available light,' he created a trademark look that are at once candid and vulnerable.  My favorite photos are the unguarded moments-- onstage, backstage and offstage, when Jim revealed the larger-than-life existence of these musical legends.  Intimacy was the key ingredient to his Art.

Jim with his Leicas

Jim Marshall was born in Chicago on February 3, 1936, but he grew up in San Francisco.  He had a Kodak Brownie camera when he was a kid, but only became serious with photography in Junior High.  He was working as an Insurance Claims Adjuster in 1960 when John Coltrane (Jazz icon) approached him in Berkeley by chance and asked him for some directions to a club.  Jim offered him a ride in exchange for a picture.

Chuck Berry rockin and rollin

Jim Marshall's photographs are some of the most wide known portraits of legendary Rock, Jazz and Blues superstars. Two of his most famous ones are the photos of Jimi Hendrix with his guitar aflame from the Monterey International Pop Festival in1967 and Janis Joplin lying on a couch backstage nursing a bottle of Southern Comfort Bourbon.

Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar on stage

Among his most iconic shots is a photo of Johnny Cash giving the camera the F U sign just before the singer sang at San Quentin prison.  Jim asked Johnny to pose for the warden.  Flipping the warden the F U sign was Johnny's natural response.

Johnny Cash and his famous finger

Here is a sampling of Jim Marshall's artistry.  He shot hundreds of album covers and his photos have been used in countless books and posters through the years.

Bob Dylan in the studio

The Beatles on their last full-scale public concert

Jerry Garcia on stage

Jim Morrison on a break

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger recording.

The Who smashing it up on stage

Like the music icons he shot, he had become somewhat of a legend himself to the point that someone actually offered to buy the Leica he shot Jimi Hendrix with in Woodstock for $25,000.  Jim's response to the offer was, "Get the hell out of here."  When Barbara Streisand attempted to limit his shots on a shoot, Jim cursed the singer/actress and then walk out.  But despite his temper, he befriended most of the Stars he photographed, as long as they agreed to his terms.

Jim Marshall died last year (aged 74), but his legacy lives on through his photographs.  I have seen original prints of Jim's photographs and I personally would love to own any one of them.  They really are genuine fragments of Rock history frozen in time-- our modern day versions of the ancient marble statues of gods and goddesses.

Here is a video tribute to Jim Marshall by one of his fans:

For more of Jim Marshall's work, go to:

--photographs property of the Jim Marshall Photography LLC. Video by Seanacus from YouTube.

No comments: