Renowned rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall died Wednesday night at age 74. NPR's Felix Contreras has this remembrance. Listen to the radio story here.
Jerry Garcia's grin, Carlos Santana's grimace, Jimi Hendrix's flamboyance and Duane Allman's intense gaze of concentration. Jim Marshall seemed to sense when it was coming and knew the exact instant when he should click the shutter.
It was usually because he shot from the stage, as close to the music as the members of the band, completely in tune with the glances and head nods that make up the wordless communication between musicians in the moment.
Jim Marshall's photographs were the reason my high school photojournalism class turned into a concert photography workshop as I spent hours in the dark room experimenting with my own manipulation of shadow and light trying to elicit the same excitement I saw in Marshall's shots. Those Marshall photographs made music come alive for me. Which is a funny thing to say since the music itself should make that happen.
Jim Marshall with his iconic image of Johnny Cash. (Courtesy of Tim Mantoani)
But I think I experienced those images like that because I was young, the music was new and the musicians played with an infectious sense of discovery. And Jim Marshall was there with his camera as witness.
While Marshall continued to snap photos throughout his career, I'm always drawn back to his work from the late 1960s and early '70s.
Looking back at his photographs from that era on news of his passing, I now understand that I had to live an additional 35 years to really grasp what is in them: not just the now-iconic images of rock stars that I saw as a high school music-lover.
I now see intimate portraits of young men and women celebrating the simple joys of being an age when we could still look at life with wonder and imagine the infinite possibilities of our dreams and aspirations.
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