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Jim’s Gone….

Mar 24

In history at 10:00pm

picture-41

Jim Marshall died today. That name might not mean much to lots of folks, even photographic folks, but we are all the poorer for his passing. He was an iconic shooter of the rock and roll scene in it’s heyday. He lived hard, and chased pictures even harder. He didn’t shoot raw files. He just shot raw. His demands for access were as unflinching as his lens. “If someone doesn’t want me to shoot them, fine, fuck ‘em,” he said. “But if they do, there can’t be any restrictions.”

An eye that doesn’t blink can be unflattering. One of Jim’s most famous images is Johnny Cash at San Quentin, flipping the camera the bird. Hendrix, Joplin. Jim shot them all. His way. Real isn’t necessarily pretty. But it can be memorable.

“I don’t sign shit either, I own all of my photographs and no one I’ve shot, not Dylan, not Miles, not Cash, has ever complained about how my pictures of them have been used.”

We are at a place where 50 or 60 or 100 shooters all vie for space in the pit for 3 songs, if that. All of them are outside the velvet rope, hoping for a glimpse, waiting for an opening. Jim, working in a different era, made his own openings. His pictures smell of sweat, incense and dope. They pop, ’cause they’re real. And, more importantly, he owned them. He was careful with his negs. As he said, “I took care of my negatives. Now they take care of me.”

Has anyone ever shot a memorable picture of, for instance, Coldplay? I ask this question from afar, as I am not a rock and roll shooter. From what I hear, again,  from a serious distance, is that this is a band, like many, who has left the term “control freak” in the rear view mirror. Absolute control of image, and images. I guess that’s understandable. It’s a business. Good music, to be sure. Sanitized, moderated imagery. Will we look in 20 years? Will that retouched, altered image hit a nerve? Seeing as many shooters now have to sign over rights to gain access, will we ever see it? Because of his talent, and tough stance, and his steely eye through a Leica, Jim gave us memory. I cannot imagine growing up without knowing the picture of Hendrix setting his guitar on fire.

I met Jim several times. That doesn’t mean I knew him. Actually, quite the contrary. I had to be re-introduced every time we bumped into each other. He was always direct, and said on a couple of occasions, sotto voce, “You know Joe, I don’t really know your work.” That was more than okay. It was, in a funny way, validation. He was Jim. He didn’t need to know.

My wife Annie befriended Jim. He was fond of her. (Who isn’t?) She tried to guide him through the digital woods, but their conversations almost always veered away from pixels into matters far more interesting.  He sent her autographed books, and gave her a suite of signed prints, which are on our walls. The print of Hendrix up top is her favorite.

“I love all these musicians – they’re like family,” he said. “Looking back, I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”

Looking back from where we are now, even more amazing. More tk….

69 Responses to “Jim’s Gone….”

Sam says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for turning me on to Jim’s work. He is AWESOME.

raoul says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Absolute control of image, and images. I guess that’s understandable. It’s a business. Good music, to be sure. Sanitized, moderated imagery.

Sanitized and moderated music too. We’ll all remember Hendrix in 20 years and kids will still wear the t-shirts. We won’t remember Coldplay.

Mike Neale says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Annie has good taste!

Steve Brown says:

on March 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Good stuff you said about Jim. He surely is a gritty, tri-x at 1600 kinda of a guy. I grew up seeing his photos in Rolling Stone and everywhere else. A few years ago I was in Hollywood with my brother looking for a guitar amp. We stumbled into this gallery that had Jim’s work. I had recognized the photos but didn’t realize that it was all from the same guy! I was in awe. Later that year for x-mas my brother gave me a signed copy of one of his books. Seems most of the people he shot have moved on also. At least the legends have left behind music and images that will last forever.

Richard Davis says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Never knew of Mr. Marshall till today but it’s sad his era appears to have passed before him. Of course, Hendrix and his cohorts were doing it for the music. They were raw. The money was a by-product. Today it appears reversed, the money is the goal and the music is the by-product. Ubercontrol of the image, the brand, is felt necessary to maintain the flow of moolah.

How many bands have missed out on opportunities because the stylized images they or their management approve lack the authentic personality of the band, lack the spark that the image here of Hendrix makes me feel, “Wow! I wish I’d been there for that performance!”?

Lyndon Smith says:

on March 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

This collection of posts is a beautiful tribute to one of rock’s greatest photographers. Most shooters dream of creating one iconic image that is instantly recognizable the world over; Jim Marshall created dozens.

As the song says “if there’s a rock and roll heaven, then you know they’ve got a hell of a band”. And a helluva good photographer…

Jim says:

on March 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm

@ Kathryn first: The story of just how the guy got his Coldplay image you like and his subsequent treatment reinforces the disgusting and soul sucking PR/management driven era we’re in and how hard it is to get a decent image. And, yes, there are exceptions!

Second: as I’ve both shot Jim Morrison and Jerry Garcia and countless others and talked with but not shot Jimi, Warren Zevon and Bruce over the years I am totally saddened by the lack of access that actual working photographers now have. I was lucky and maybe better equipped then most but Jim Marshall and Baron Wolman and Harry Benson were my early heros for sure!
And remember, please, Annie Leibowitz replaced Jim and Baron (if memory serves) at Rolling Stone for like a $125.00 a week just so Jann Wenner could save on photo fees!!!!

Blaine says:

on March 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

Great post and tribute to one of the greats, Joe, thank you, and thanks for all the great comments posted as well. He shot in a different time and a different way, and for history sake, it’s too bad those times are gone….shooting rock and roll today is totally different, and we’re all the poorer for it. RIP Jim…

Tracy Milkay says:

on March 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Lovely tribute, Joe. A one of a kind soul is lost, for sure.

Joseph Rowland says:

on March 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Awesome tribute Joe. Always interesting to read about “who” inspired the person that inspires you. Thanks

Clark Scott says:

on March 27, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I met Jim in the bar of the W Hotel on Lexington a few years ago on Halloween. Since his photos lined the walls of the very hip bar across the lobby he got celebrity status, free single malts in quart-size glasses. He was in town to do some documentary for the Discovery Channel and he had an entourage that included a friend of his, another photographer who kept insisting my wife and I recognize that Jim was famous, along with a bevy of beautiful 20-somethings all in black who were somehow associated with his current project.

Everybody knows somebody famous so we weren’t impressed by Jim’s fame. Frankly, I had to Google him when I got home to find out who he was.

What I remember was telling him to go fuck himself and him telling me to do the same, and how we became instant friends after that exchange. We stayed up late talking about photography and he shared some great anecdotes about the people he had shot, from Janis Joplin to the Stones to the Beatles. He ended up inviting us to visit him in San Francisco.

I only met Jim that one time, and even though I didn’t know who he was then, it was a remarkable evening spent with a charming, no-bullshit-guy who could talk about getting the shot like no one else I’ve ever met before.

He insisted on signing his entourage friend’s book flyer for me. It read, “Fuck you. Jim Marshall.” Now that’s an autograph. And an epitaph.

Alejandro Cerutti says:

on March 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Bye Jim.
Great post Joe.

Alex from Argentina.

Fabio Chavarria says:

on March 30, 2010 at 12:20 am

Great photographer!!!! RIP

Fabio from Costa Rica

Tom says:

on March 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

There was a nice obituary for Jim in today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK. Shame it coincided with the announcement of photographer’s fees being cut by between 15 – 50 percent.

John says:

on March 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Isn’t it funny that we know the pictures, but not the man that captured them.

Doru Oprisan says:

on March 31, 2010 at 6:05 am

You cannot capture the wild spirit and the energy of rock’n'roll with rules.
Great article !

R.J. says:

on April 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Nice Tribute,

thanks for sharing your insight

fas says:

on April 17, 2010 at 7:03 am

May his soul rest in peace.

Johnny Garcia says:

on April 20, 2010 at 7:38 am

“An eye that doesn’t blink can be unflattering!” thanks, Jim I will keep it in mind; till my passing R.I.P with “GOD!”

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