Jim Marshall

A Tribute to an Iconic Image Maker

When the world lost Jim Marshall in 2010, a part of history died—a part that lived on thorough the immortalized imagery of the artist’s subjects, many of whom served as the voices of a generation. Regularly photographing icons like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash made Marshall a name for himself among the headliners, and not just for taking great pictures, but more significantly, for doing so without intrusion or staging. He would sink wholly into the electric atmosphere around him, becoming one with the camera to capture some of the most powerful rock ‘n’ roll photographs ever taken.

Few photographers have had as strong a hold on legendary excellence, and now Marshall’s full archive of Haight-Ashbury imagery has now been made available to the public for the first time through a new book, The Haight: Love, Rock and Revolution. These photographs illustrate the intangibles of a radical movement, so vivid and yet so unimposing, as if the viewer and the subject were both aware and accepting of one another. The only photographer allowed backstage at the Beatles’ final concert (held in Candlestick Park in 1966), his work is so notable, it earned him the first and only Trustees’ Award from the Grammy council granted to a photographer.

The Haight explores the depths of the Sixties’ heartbeat in a way no other collection has, revealing both tender and explosive moments throughout this key time in history. While Marshall was known for his celebrity imagery, many of the photographs featured in The Haight are of the common scene, which transitions throughout the book from the carefree “free love” days to the Hippie exodus from the drug-riddled streets. This is the first book of Marshall’s work that allows his audience a full view of what the artist took in from his surroundings, and the unlocking of this archive is of true significance.

A lifelong camera enthusiast, Marshall would cut out catalog images and paste them into a notebook, noting the price of each option. To the end, he would stress that his fascination was always with the camera, rather than photography as an art form. Perhaps it was this dedicated knowledge to the technical elements of the craft that made Marshall’s work; when asked about things like composition, he would simply say with a wave, “I knew what I wanted.”

He got his start photographing musicians after a chance encounter with John Coltrane left him trading the jazz legend a ride to Berkeley in exchange for nine rolls of film shot. By becoming ever-present in the developing Haight-Ashbury scene since its inception, Marshall was able to establish authentic relationships with all the key players; the trust his subjects placed in him is perhaps nowhere more apparent than his portraits of Janis Joplin. The artists Marshall photographed seemed to understand that capturing candid imagery was essential to fully translating their message in essence to the public. What set him apart most importantly was intent—Marshall sought authenticity for authenticity’s sake, not as a means to an end. Translating experience through pictures was Marshall’s passion, and one the world of music is ever the better for.

The Haight includes text by Joe Selvin, another intimately-connected member of the Hippie movement at the time. By connecting his bird’s eye perspective with Marshall’s vivid imagery, the book is able to provide a new level of

connectivity between today’s readers and a pivotal time in American history. It would seem the only thing that could improve upon the archive would be if Marshall himself could be here to present it— though it’s fair to say he contributed much more than could ever be asked for to the world of music and photography, and we are eternally grateful to the keepers of his collection for revealing these never-before-seen treasures.​

See more of Jim Marshall’s influential photography in The Haight: Love, Rock, and Revolution, available October 14th.

Text Kate Zaliznock
Photography © Jim Marshall Photography LLC.