Two new books by San Francisco photographer Jim Marshall intensify the love of music
Marshall's Leica images have their own magic, evident in monographs such as Tomorrow Never Knows — The Beatles' Last Concert (1987), Monterey Pop (1992), Not Fade Away (1997), Proof (2004), and Jazz (2005). Trust distinguishes itself by the dominance of color images — Marshall laughs heartily when I tell him that the blue sky found in a pair of outdoor concert photos of Joplin is a California blue. The color in Marshall's photos is super-real, to re-deploy a word Anthony DeCurtis applies to White in the introduction to Match Prints. It isn't the cliché hallucinogenic vision found in so many recreations of drug trips or the '60s, but instead an extra intensity, utterly pure.
"The single greatest performance I ever saw in my life was Otis Redding in Monterey [at Monterey Pop in 1967]," Marshall says, as we page through Trust. "Brian Jones was there as a guest, and he said, 'I think Mick [Jagger] is one of the greatest singers, and our band is one of the best, but personally, you couldn't give me a million pounds to follow Otis Redding on stage.' It was that shattering of a performance." The photo we're looking at as he says this is deep black and rich blue, with fists to the fore. It's a cry — a shout — into the night.
A pair of photos in Trust capture confidences exchanged between Johnny Cash and a top-of-the-world Bob Dylan — a country-folk echo of the gestures of confidence between Marshall, Coltrane, and Davis. Marshall laughs when I tell him of an anecdote about the great folk artist-archivist and magician Harry Smith slamming the door of his Chelsea Hotel room in the young Dylan's face with a loud "Fuck off!" When Marshall first began to photograph Cash and Dylan, the upstart musician was uncooperative, until his idol set him straight about the man behind the lens. "Bob Dylan respected without equivocation two people," says Marshall. "Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger." Indeed, Trust's American history isn't just a rock star history, it's a secret history, a braided folk tale that extends from Elizabeth Cotten to the unlikely yet perfectly logical friendship between Sly Stone and Doris Day. Its stunning photos of the Carter Family can inspire a conversation about Redding's and Anita Carter's individually magnificent versions of "I've Been Loving You Too Long."
Back at Marshall's apartment, a photo of his late friend Tim Hardin at Woodstock broods as quietly as one of Hardin's ballads, near the fireplace. "A million people around him, and he's totally alone," Marshall says, as if he took the shot yesterday. The hallway is lined with photos, not just by Marshall, but more often by famous acuaintances, many of them layered gestures of friendship that need no inscription. Marshall takes out his teenage scrapbook and sets it down on a table by his autographed images of Obama and Joe DiMaggio. "This was from the late 1940s!" he says, his voice rising in amazement. "Isn't that a mindfuck?" It sure is. Another mindfuck would be for the best musicians and biggest personalities of the Bay Area to step in front of Marshall's Leica today.
A NEW LOOK: JIM MARSHALL AND FRIENDS PUT THE FOCUS ON MS
VISUAL ART/EVENT This month, from March 5–19, one of Jim Marshall's iconic images of Janis Joplin will be showcased in Union Square. The shot, of Joplin at the Palace of Fine Arts with arms outstretched as she sits atop a colorful Volkswagen Beetle, is just one of a number of prints being auctioned up for sale by photographers such as Baron Wolman, Michael Zagaris, Herb Greene, Robert Altman, Bobby Klein, and Marshall.