Stopping Time: Jim Marshall Has Left The Dark Room
Yesterday, we learned of the passing, at age 74, of Jim Marshall, one of the pioneering veterans of jazz and rock photography, in his sleep on Tuesday while staying at a New York hotel.
He was in town to promote Match Prints, a book he had recently finished with his friend Timothy White (according to the New York Times, a gallery show opens this coming Friday at SoHo’s Staley-Wise Gallery).
I was always drawn to Marshall’s shots of the greats of the 60’s and 70’s, and the unforgettable work of Jim Marshall proves that, while anyone can hold a camera up to a musician, it takes an artist with a special vision in their eyes to make that photo sing. Living in the Bay Area as I do, I also appreciate that so many of his most well-known photographs were shot right where I live, work and play. I’ll personally never forget his indelible images from what turned out to be the final Beatles Concert in America, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.
Elsewhere, how about this Marshall shot of Keith Richards practically nodding off with a smoke in Sunset Studios in 1972:
A few years back, my wife (who works for Chronicle Books, full disclosure) brought home a copy of Proof, the 2004 book Marshall had done with Chronicle.
Proof contains many of Marshall’s most iconic shots, with captions and notes by esteemed Bay Area rock journalist Joel Selvin.
There’s the classic Bob Dylan “rolling tire” shot from 1963:
Of the Dylan shot, Selvin wrote that Marshall and Dylan, along with Dylan’s then girlfriend Suze Rotolo, and Dave Van Ronk and his wife Teri had been “walking down Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village, going to breakfast. Dylan spied a discarded tire and Marshall clicked off these frames with a morning haze filtering the light. The world-famous photograph could never have been created in a studio—another example of Marshall’s ability to stop time.”
Then there was the extremely popular and equally iconic single finger salute of Johnny Cash in 1969:
Selvin, again: “When Johnny Cash went to San Quentin Prison to record a live album, Marshall, who took the cover shot of Cash’s previous At Folsom Prison, went with him again. At Q, Marshall caught another one of his classic ‘finger’ shots during sound check by saying to Cash ‘Let’s do a shot for the warden.'”
Marshall was at the soundcheck when Jimi Hendrix prepared for his memorable 1967 appearance at The Monterey Pop Festival, shooting such a classic image that Marshall forever memorized its index number.
Selvin: “Marshall introduced himself to the guitarist and started taking pictures while standing alongside Hendrix on the stage, unwittingly documenting stage manager Al Kooper turning down Hendrix’s suggestion that he play organ on ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ ‘Roll No. 4078—The Arm, frame number thirty-two,’ said Marshall. ‘These are my children.'”
Outside of rock and roll, he shot quite a few jazz innovators like John Coltrane, or this boxing ring shot of Miles Davis, which made for a particularly arresting image.
Selvin: “Davis saw photos of ‘Trane that Marshall took and let Marshall into his world. Marshall made album-cover photos for the slippery jazz great, attended Hendrix’s funeral with him, and followed him around town during a Fillmore West run, where he caught this shot of Davis with his guard down, working out at Newman’s Gym.”
Chronicle also published many of Marshall’s jazz shots in a book called Jazz, in 2005.
My Chronicle friends tell me that they were already planning the fall release of Pocket Cash, a collection of Marshall’s shots of his good friend Johnny Cash, with a forward by John Carter Cash and additional text by Kris Kristofferson and Billy Bob Thornton.
According to reports, Marshall was no shrinking violet, and could be a handful if you got on his bad side, but I imagine it takes a larger than life personality to get backstage and in the faces of some of the biggest personas in the world’s of rock and jazz.
He had few true peers, but only a handful, such as Henry Diltz, Annie Leibowitz, Bob Gruen, or maybe Lynn Goldsmith or Mick Rock and scant others, had the kind of intimacy and access that he brought to the performers.
Brooklyn Museum curator Gail Buckland, who mounted last October’s show, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, said in Tuesday’s New York Times that Marshall, one of several photographers featured, “wasn’t really manufacturing an image, he was trying to see who that person was, and understanding that we care about these people with the way that they touch our lives with music.”
“Too much bullshit is written about photographs and music. Let the music move you, whether to a frenzy or a peaceful place. Let it be what you want to hear—not what others say is popular. Let the photograph be one you remember—not for its technique but for its soul. Let it become a part of your life—a part of your past to help shape your future. But most of all, let the music and the photograph be something you love and will always enjoy.”
Finally, you will note that I have attempted to simultaneously assert Mr. Marshall’s copyright on all these images, and yet have not sought permission to include them here. I am hoping that it is understood that I am merely trying to show proof, in a journalistic way, of Jim Marshall’s amazing vision, and I am not receiving any payment resultant from the borrowing of these images. I’ll take ’em all down if the appropriate order comes to me.