Friday, March 26, 2010

R.I.P. Jim Marshall

Legendary lensman Jim Marshall passed away this week in New York City. Self promotion and ego inflation are the very currency of rock and roll, so one should view any claims of 'greatest anything' with major chunks of salt. But in this case...

Personally, long after I was exposed to his work, I was heartened to learn of his connections to two of my heros: Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was a huge influence on Marshall, and John Coltrane, who gave him his first high profile gig; if you need more biographical info, start with remembrances in the L.A. Times, or Rolling Stone, or head to the man's website, for it's the legacy that speaks the loudest. Consider only these facts: he accompanied Johnny Cash on the Folsom Prison show, and during the Beatles final show at Candlestick Park, San Franciso in 1966, he was the only photographer with full backstage access.

His most famous photos are iconic, the infamous shot of Johnny Cash flipping the bird, Bob Dylan rolling a tire down the street, Hendrix at Monterey Pop, Miles Davis in the boxing ring, and on and on...what astounds me is how many photos of his I knew and didn't directly associate with him until (sometimes many) years later.

He is among a very small circle that wrote the Lingua Franca of rock photography, adhering to Cartier-Bresson's theory of 'the decisive moment'. His shadow in the rock world is so towering that it's easy to forget his documentation of the Civil Rights Era, as well as his Appalachian trips. He considered himself a photo journalist, as opposed to a celebrity photographer, and his taking rock and roll seriously directly contributed to our taking rock and roll seriously.

One of his collections was called 'Trust', and that will stand...He had their trust, and he had ours.