Today, while cleaning I came across an old photo book by one of my favorite photographers of all time, Jim Marshall. Jim’s work was the first photography that got me excited about taking pictures. To me, Jim created the most iconic photos of the 60’s and 70’s era. He was always granted behind-the-scenes access to the great musicians, and actors of his time. His images black and white images are timeless candid photos that show a very personal side to his subjects. His subjects included people such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Woody Allen, and Ray Charles, just to mention a few. I guarantee you’ve seen some of his images and if you’re not sure check out his work.
Jim came to speak at my commercial photography program at Seattle Central Community College to promote his new book, Jim Marshall Proof. A photo book filled with his never before seen proof sheets along with a large copy of his final picked image. Next to each image a short story is included about each individual shoot he did and how he went about selecting the “hero shots”. I remember finding out one day after class that he was coming. I was shocked. He was coming to our class I remember the night before he arrived I set out my wardrobe for the approaching day making sure to get my favorite Jimi Hendrix shirt ready. On the shirt was a photo that Jim took of Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
As Jim walked in to face our class the next morning he saw my shirt and yelled, “that’s my image, and I never gave permission for it to be printed!” I was completely embarrassed, but that feeling soon washed away when Jim smiled at me. For the next hour Jim talked to us about his images, and the stories behind some of the most iconic photos in rock n’ roll history. He talked about photos like his famous shot of the Allman Brothers Band for their Live at Fillmore album, and his personal friendships with bands like the Grateful Dead, and Rolling Stones. Towards the end of Jims speech, I over-heard one of the local Seattle camera reps who was in attendance, whisper to one of my instructors that there would be an open bar later in the evening for Jim. I decided that even though I wasn’t invited I had to try to get in.
That night I arrived at the downtown Seattle bar with two close friends from my commercial photography program. As soon as we walked in we were spotted by one of my instructors who looked at us with wide eyes. I’m assuming he was expecting the entire class to be behind us. We quickly tried to blend in and not look out of place. Jim was at the bar talking to what seemed like every camera rep in the Pacific Northwest. After a few minutes one of the camera reps, which was a close friend of Jim, and who also knew I was a huge fan of Jim’s, invited me over to personally meet Jim Marshall.
I was completely star struck and at first wasn’t sure what to say. Fearing I’d say nothing, and regret ever coming, I quickly stared asking Jim questions. Jim was such a nice guy and answered anything I asked. He told me stories about hanging out with my favorite musician of all-time, Jimi Hendrix. He told me about photographing Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, and the story behind the photo of Cash flipping off the camera.
At the end Jim asked me, “What is so exciting about talking to an old man like me?” I told him how seeing his images as a kid I was inspired to take photos and eventually pursue photography myself. And I told him that I hoped to one day be an old man and sit at a bar telling someone the story of meeting Jim Marshall. He smiled big after hearing that, and mentioned that he was into astrology. He asked me when my birthday was and I told him February 4th he smiled again and said that’s interesting because his birthday was February 3rd. He then bent down, reached into his bag, and produced the photo book he was promoting. He quickly wrote a note in it that reads, “To Josh. From Jim Marshall”. I still can’t believe it! What a day! I’ll always remember it! Without me knowing it, my instructor also snapped off some photos of Jim and I talking which I’ve also included. Check out Jims WORK and I hope it inspires you like it’s inspired me.