Thursday, March 25, 2010

Goodbye, Jim

Yesterday the overlapping worlds of photography and music got some very sad news. Legendary Rock and Roll photographer Jim Marshall died in his sleep.

For anyone who is into Rock music and/or photography, even if you didn't know this man's name, you knew his work. His iconic images included those of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, and many more. I will have to admit that I wasn't as familiar with his work as I wished I could have been, but I did know his most popular images, and I did know they were his, so at least I can say that much.

Jim was a game-changer through his skill and attitude. He really set the bar pretty high for guys like myself, and in fact, he set it impossibly high because nowadays you just cannot get the kind of access that he would demand. He would not shoot a subject unless he could be around them 24/7 and these days you just don't get permission to do that. So many artists these days are overprotective of their image, which is understandable, but also makes it very hard to get more than 5 minutes with them, and forget about actually owning your work. Most music celebrities these days have you fill out paperwork signing over your work to them so they have the legal right to say where and when it can be used. Not everyone does it, but there are quite a few, and of course it's the bigger names that can get away with asking such a thing. But Jim never signed a single release form; he refused to. If he wasn't allowed to shoot his way, then he wouldn't shoot. He had a real "fuck 'em if they don't like it" attitude that probably got him more respect than grief; again, the opposite of how it would work today.

The thing is, Jim was photographing Rock and Roll when it was still relatively new, and although there always was and always will be Rock star egos, Jim knew how to break through and get to the person behind the persona.

His website displays some of his most well-known work. He's most famous for his classic images of Johnny Cash giving the finger to the camera and Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar on stage.

Jim Marshall did what we all hope to do at some point; he lived with his subjects, he followed their every move, he captured more than their image, he captured their essence. The man had an eye that makes most of us green with envy. With Jim it was more about knowing why to get the shot, rather than how to get the shot.

I will give Jim the respect, from one photographer to another, to not link his images directly here. They are displayed on his website and will be there until whoever is in charge decides it's time to take them down.

More soon,

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