Wednesday, March 24, 2010

R.I.P. Jim Marshall

One of the premier "old school" music photographers, Jim Marshall, passed away today. Jim made iconic images of virtually every musician who would be considered a legend today. Hendrix, Dylan, the Beatles, Janis, Coltrane, Miles, and the list goes on and on. He'd just released a new book with Timothy White, Match Prints, where the two photographers chose complimentary images from their portfolios for an exercise in compare and contrast. This image here is the Allman Brothers Band, used as the cover for their definitive live album, "Live at the Fillmore." (I knew a guy a few years ago who would listen to this entire double album about 3 or 4 times a week.)

Back when I was in college and for a while afterwards, I was pretty heavily into photographing live bands, and when possible, the performers in their offstage moments, too. A few were published here and there, but it was mainly for me. It was pretty challenging then, shooting film, and dealing with processing and printing. And I think NOT having the instant feedback of being able to look at an LCD screen with the image and a histogram and all that -- it just forced me to trust that I knew what I was doing, and concentrate on being in the moment of the performance waiting for the visual that would define the whole evening. I remember somehow getting a camera into an Elvis Costello concert and fighting my way down near the stage to shoot a roll, only to have the camera jam, and my only option was to open up the camera and tear out the film so I could clear the jam and continue shooting. THAT one broke my heart.

Concerts are also tricky because you're totally at the mercy of the light man, the crowd, the bouncers, the venue, etc. to try to have enough light to work with, and get a decent position to capture something, without being in everyone's way or disrupting the show. But it's all part of the challenge that made it so much fun. I'd like to get back into working with musicians again, but maybe more on a portraiture basis -- something about stage presence and charisma of a performer frequently makes for wonderful portraits. Just look at Jim Marshall's work...