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Jim’s Gone….

Mar 24

In history at 10:00pm


Jim Marshall died today. That name might not mean much to lots of folks, even photographic folks, but we are all the poorer for his passing. He was an iconic shooter of the rock and roll scene in it’s heyday. He lived hard, and chased pictures even harder. He didn’t shoot raw files. He just shot raw. His demands for access were as unflinching as his lens. “If someone doesn’t want me to shoot them, fine, fuck ’em,” he said. “But if they do, there can’t be any restrictions.”

An eye that doesn’t blink can be unflattering. One of Jim’s most famous images is Johnny Cash at San Quentin, flipping the camera the bird. Hendrix, Joplin. Jim shot them all. His way. Real isn’t necessarily pretty. But it can be memorable.

“I don’t sign shit either, I own all of my photographs and no one I’ve shot, not Dylan, not Miles, not Cash, has ever complained about how my pictures of them have been used.”

We are at a place where 50 or 60 or 100 shooters all vie for space in the pit for 3 songs, if that. All of them are outside the velvet rope, hoping for a glimpse, waiting for an opening. Jim, working in a different era, made his own openings. His pictures smell of sweat, incense and dope. They pop, ’cause they’re real. And, more importantly, he owned them. He was careful with his negs. As he said, “I took care of my negatives. Now they take care of me.”

Has anyone ever shot a memorable picture of, for instance, Coldplay? I ask this question from afar, as I am not a rock and roll shooter. From what I hear, again,  from a serious distance, is that this is a band, like many, who has left the term “control freak” in the rear view mirror. Absolute control of image, and images. I guess that’s understandable. It’s a business. Good music, to be sure. Sanitized, moderated imagery. Will we look in 20 years? Will that retouched, altered image hit a nerve? Seeing as many shooters now have to sign over rights to gain access, will we ever see it? Because of his talent, and tough stance, and his steely eye through a Leica, Jim gave us memory. I cannot imagine growing up without knowing the picture of Hendrix setting his guitar on fire.

I met Jim several times. That doesn’t mean I knew him. Actually, quite the contrary. I had to be re-introduced every time we bumped into each other. He was always direct, and said on a couple of occasions, sotto voce, “You know Joe, I don’t really know your work.” That was more than okay. It was, in a funny way, validation. He was Jim. He didn’t need to know.

My wife Annie befriended Jim. He was fond of her. (Who isn’t?) She tried to guide him through the digital woods, but their conversations almost always veered away from pixels into matters far more interesting.  He sent her autographed books, and gave her a suite of signed prints, which are on our walls. The print of Hendrix up top is her favorite.

“I love all these musicians – they’re like family,” he said. “Looking back, I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”

Looking back from where we are now, even more amazing. More tk….

kathryn says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Has anyone ever shot a memorable picture of, for instance, Coldplay?

Here’s one?

Allen Ross Thomas says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Jim is the godfather of live music photography and journalism. It is indeed a different and more restrictive world in which iconic images of has beens by the time their one hit plays on the radio 4 times an hour are few and far between. There are however still artists that get it, and photographers who are there busting their butt to catch these iconic fractions of seconds. Mr. Marshall, while we may never meet or exceed your mutually transparent moments of capture, we applaud you and aspire to be as you.


twoeightnine says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Well said…

Matt says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:10 pm


That blog post was written using 100% awesome. And the picture of Cash giving the camera the bird is one of my favorite images of all time…


Levi Bethune says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Joe, what an amazing tribute. He certainly left quite a legacy, and was a true pioneer in the art. I feel like as the music being created in that era paved the way for the modern musician, his photography set a precedent as well. Even though the man is gone, his life is in the photos.

Mark says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Such a great tribute to a wonderful shooter. Thanks for the recollection, Joe.

juandiegojr says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Well.. as a very pasionated dude with Hendrix music and photography I knew his work.

Will be missed.. but as well maybe with complete marketing new bands where the photographer cannot express oneself the way he want to shot a band because marketing sharks made a mold for them, these kind of photographers are missing.

But I guess this will change. Because the music industry is changed as well and the control I think will come back to the artist. And when I say artist I mean musicians and photographers.

Dawn says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I hadn’t heard of him until today – but what I’ve learned today about him by seeing his images and what his peers say about him is so poignant. From everyone’s words about Jim, perhaps we can try to continue to learn from him through his images, his “process” of doing it his way… I enjoy your blog so much and your testimony to peers and subjects alike. Thanks Joe – continued safe travels and I look forward to learning more and more from you:)

Jason Sheesley says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Sad as it is to lose the man, it’s equally sad to think of the decline of freedom in music photography. Next time someone hands me a rights grab, I think instead of politely declining I’ll just quote Jim.

Mike says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Those of us old enough knew his work. If you were a photographer, you knew the name, but if you weren’t, you sure as hell knew the work. On stage, back stage, in a hotel room, Jim had access because he was part of that scene, and everyone respected each other.

The music machine owns the artists now, and even an amateur faces those horrid “No cameras allowed” signs after they plopped down $60 for a ticket to the show. That’s not control of the image, that’s an attempt to squeeze a few more dollars out of the patrons by refusing them the opportunity to take home their own mementos from the show. Here, buy a shirt instead.

If you like to shoot music and musicians, hang out at bars and hang out with young musicians, or hungry musicians. Have fun and don’t treat it like work. Be friends. Get good shots of nobody famous. They’re still good shots.

Bob says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm

An amazing yet simple piece; nicely written with no hoolabaloos. Thanks, Mr. McNally.

Ken Toney says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I’ve been shooting some concerts lately and every now and then one of the managers (KISS for instance) says ” you can shoot but they become ours and you have no right to even print them”. Of coarse I say f$%K you! I shoot because I love it and I have never depended on photography for my income(which may be a good thing) but I shoot what and when I want. I am blessed to be able to buy whatever equipment I want and shoot what I want. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Great post Joe.

Josh says:

on March 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Wonderful post Joe.

Polgara says:

on March 24, 2010 at 11:03 pm

What a beautiful tribute

dave.s says:

on March 24, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I know the loss feeling, of a special photographer as I knew Princess Diana’s personal or the queens hired hand hehe. So much true passion goes into the art. Blessings and heart felt sorrow to you all.
And Joe, I agree with other comments, but think if photography ever goes flat the writing will live on in your blogs.

Alan says:

on March 25, 2010 at 12:18 am

When Drew walked up to the table and told us that Jim was no longer with us a part of me died. He is one of the reasons I do what I do.

I have spent many hours staring at his work. He captured a moment, the moment, in every one of his images.

My world was a better place because of him.

Janine Smith says:

on March 25, 2010 at 12:31 am

Wow. This is what an elegy is meant to be. I didn’t know him. You didn’t know him much. But you captured who he was and what he meant. Thank you so much.

Mike says:

on March 25, 2010 at 12:44 am

Sad day and I’m glad you posted this.

Terry Clark says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:07 am

Very well done, Joe. They don’t make em like Jim anymore. He was who he was because of the times he lived through. As you said, not many memorable photos coming from the music industry these days, certainly not to the level of Jim’s work.

William Hacker says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:18 am

Music photography isn’t in the place it used to be. Everything jumbles together… The rawness is gone.

Matt Thomas says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:29 am

Sad day indeed, Wish i could of met him. I would love to see an exhibition of his here in Liverpool, UK.

Maciej says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:24 am


What’s your opinion on:
“If someone doesn’t want me to shoot them, fine, fuck ’em,” he said. “But if they do, there can’t be any restrictions.”
“I don’t sign shit either, I own all of my photographs…”
I personally admire this approach, but how to use it in a real life…
Do you ever sell rights to your images… like ever, ever?

Ludovic says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:42 am

I didn’t know this man by name, but I realize I know some of his pictures. That’s what I love about photography, the impact you can have on people’s minds, the way you can change their minds. And to attain this, I firmly believe that you must always stay true to your vision, whatever the doubts or superficial criticisms. If it feels right to you, then that’s what you have to do.

Jim Marshall seemed to be a man who had such a vision and stuck to it, while taking the time to make his business prosper. Hats off and Godspeed.

Lasse says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:43 am

What a great blog post.

Ben Denison says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:59 am

I didnt even know the name, but thanks for this blog, now I feel like I know the man.

Love the way he rolled.

Glyn Dewis says:

on March 25, 2010 at 4:37 am

Incredible how so many of us will know of Jim’s iconic images but very sad that this is the first blog post or piece I’ve ever read about him.

From what you say Joe, Jim was clearly one of life’s characters…a gifted guy who will be missed by many, and a HUGE loss to the Photographic World.

Steve says:

on March 25, 2010 at 5:12 am

Well done.

Werner says:

on March 25, 2010 at 6:13 am

Saddens me to hear of Jims passing, he was and continues to be one of my heros, (jus like Johnny Cash, by the way). I quit shooting the big concerts ’cause the working conditions were just getting insane. Prefer the small clubs these days – you’d be amazed at the possibilities small venues offer. Get to know people personally. Cheers to jim – wherever he may be – he won’t be forgotten.


Tom McKean says:

on March 25, 2010 at 6:15 am

The music industry will never be the same. Jim’s photos were of an era we all grew up in. And we had admired those musicians. When I discovered who Jim was, I was even more interested in his work. Thanks Joe for a wonderful tribute of Jim’s gone.

Lisa says:

on March 25, 2010 at 7:18 am

No I didn’t know him, but I felt that I certainly got to know his subjects through his lens. Amazing work. Raw is as apt a description of his work as I have ever heard.

Thanks for the post.

Bobbi Lane says:

on March 25, 2010 at 7:33 am

Joe, Thanks for the wonderful eulogy, got me choked up. I never had the pleasure of meeting Jim, he was always a “friend of friends” but his work means so much to me, growing up around musicians in the sixties. His images are iconic, like the Who at dawn at Woodstock, as well as the others mentioned. His life was one well and hard lived, and we all benefited from his passion and insight. Thanks so much for your keen view and honoring the man as well as the work.

Chester Simpson says:

on March 25, 2010 at 7:54 am

I met Jim Marshall in 1975 backstage in Golden Gate Park at a Grateful Dead Concert! I had just arrived in SF to study Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and heard on the radio Free Concert in the Park.
After talking my way backstage, I saw this photographer with all these Lecia camera’s around his neck and asked him if I could be his assistant and learn from him. He gave me his phone # and he helped me get my first photo published in Rolling Stone Magazine while still in Art School. He taught me to copyright all my images and to respect the music artist when photographing them. We briefly shared a studio together above his apartment on Union St, until it got too crazy! He was a wild man photographer and famous people where always dropping by to see Jim. He taught me everything about the business of Photography! I would call him anytime when I had a question!
He was always willing to help a young photographer!
He will be greatly missed!

Iden Ford says:

on March 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

I quote from Shakespeare for Jim

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air . . . . . . We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.”
For Jim Marshall, whose work we shall always enjoy and we will think of him, a giant of our industry.

Girish says:

on March 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Thanks for making me learn of such a wonderful photographer.
You have really written a great write up for him.

I saw his images, truly a master !!

You must be lucky really to know him so up-close. and have his photographs signed and framed with you.

Thanks once again.

martin says:

on March 25, 2010 at 8:31 am

you are a great story teller with pixels and words.
jim would be most proud of this blog.

Howard Haby says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:03 am

Great post, Joe. The images from that era are something that I love. I feel they were unique in terms of the type of images captured and the look. Things just don’t seem so rock n’ roll anymore.

Hans van de Vorst says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

One of my clients is a collector of his pics Joe, big B&W’s in a big building. If you walk there history is all around you and where good pictures are the photographer is there as well. That’s the benefit of being an artist like he was: You live forever.

Roddy McWha says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:08 am

As the world is poorer for his passing, it is richer in that he lived!
He has always been my inspiration. Five years ago, I walked away from shooting “the big names” because of the restrictions. I now shoot celtic music and I am happy to say that I have been excepted as part of the scene by many of the musicians.
Let the “stars” set there own image-the world will tire of the lack of substance in it, quickly.
Thank you, Joe, for the tribute to this giant.

Slaint’e, to you and Jim

Kris says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

I feel like the honesty of the work is coming back.

It has been 10 years since I first started shooting digital (Nikon D1) as a stringer for my hometown paper. In conjunction with our current state of affairs (the Recession) and the “Green Movement”, We the People are now forced to sit up and take notice of the reality that we live in. In the music industry, we’re sick of hearing Autotune; in photography, people are sick of seeing everything retouched to looking fake. In my opinion, the people are ready to realize that the world is naturally made up of dirt and mud—not plastic—and that that is OK.

Ban_D says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

Beautiful tribute with your storytelling – well done!
RIP Jim.

Scott Bryant says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:34 am

Yeah, today, the “edginess” of today’s rock and roll photography is added later in Photoshop.

In a way, today’s digital world is all about post production.

Up next, virtual rock-n-roll stars. It’s already happening, isn’t it?

Jay Mann says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:36 am

Thanks Joe, its so good to learn more about the individuals, and to appreciate them.

Duncan says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:48 am

a wonderful narrative on a wonderful man! Though I’ve never heard of him before, I feel as though I know him from reading your tribute.

Skip Barber says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

Thanks once again for the great blog. I learned something from you again today.

Dave Hutchinson says:

on March 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

This is the first that I have known about Jim, but after your post I feel like I had known him. Great work as usual Joe!

Fran says:

on March 25, 2010 at 11:12 am

What a great post, Joe. I’ve always loved Mr. Marshall’s photos. And I share his view of the artists who don’t want you to shoot them. His images are literally the history of a time when music was real and the business was second to that. It is a shame that we will never see those days again.

Josh says:

on March 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Great post, Joe. Thank you! And as for Coldplay (particularly singer Chris Martin) you are right on the money. I had to deal with their obsessive image control firsthand. Of course, I probably wouldn’t want a photo of me talking to the Jonas Brothers, either.

Barbu says:

on March 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Collateral: there are restrictions for photographers everywhere. Who gains from it?
1) Stealty cameras make short work of any supposedly “sensitive” gov’t area. Terrorists? Sure one of those won’t show up with a big white lens on display.
2) Public picture of people? Pervs won’t take pics of your Average Joe faced kid; first they’ll use candies not cameras, and surely won’t trudge along with a bag full of lenses.
3) Celebrities? Sure you can hide better and have a “right” to be alone on the planet, except for the slaves that work for you. But in the real world, your rights interfere with mine. Hole up in your bunker if you don’t wanna be seen; other than that, the harder you hide the richer a paparazzo would be.
4) No pics in the subway, in the corner cafe, in the stadium… Sure you pay for access in a public place, but why wouldn’t they make you feel miserable? You’re still paying for the pleasure of being treated like dirt.
Who loses? Anyone hoping to be able to enjoy the camera, the act of taking photos and the actual memories captured. Next step: a blindfold will be compulsory.
Back to the article: when was the last time you could take a photo unrestricted, as a simple member of the public? We increasingly need new generations of Jim Marshalls; at least we can vicariously flip the finger to all the photo bigots.

hfng says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for sharing his story.

Sam says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for turning me on to Jim’s work. He is AWESOME.

raoul says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Absolute control of image, and images. I guess that’s understandable. It’s a business. Good music, to be sure. Sanitized, moderated imagery.

Sanitized and moderated music too. We’ll all remember Hendrix in 20 years and kids will still wear the t-shirts. We won’t remember Coldplay.

Mike Neale says:

on March 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Annie has good taste!

Steve Brown says:

on March 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Good stuff you said about Jim. He surely is a gritty, tri-x at 1600 kinda of a guy. I grew up seeing his photos in Rolling Stone and everywhere else. A few years ago I was in Hollywood with my brother looking for a guitar amp. We stumbled into this gallery that had Jim’s work. I had recognized the photos but didn’t realize that it was all from the same guy! I was in awe. Later that year for x-mas my brother gave me a signed copy of one of his books. Seems most of the people he shot have moved on also. At least the legends have left behind music and images that will last forever.

Richard Davis says:

on March 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Never knew of Mr. Marshall till today but it’s sad his era appears to have passed before him. Of course, Hendrix and his cohorts were doing it for the music. They were raw. The money was a by-product. Today it appears reversed, the money is the goal and the music is the by-product. Ubercontrol of the image, the brand, is felt necessary to maintain the flow of moolah.

How many bands have missed out on opportunities because the stylized images they or their management approve lack the authentic personality of the band, lack the spark that the image here of Hendrix makes me feel, “Wow! I wish I’d been there for that performance!”?

Lyndon Smith says:

on March 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

This collection of posts is a beautiful tribute to one of rock’s greatest photographers. Most shooters dream of creating one iconic image that is instantly recognizable the world over; Jim Marshall created dozens.

As the song says “if there’s a rock and roll heaven, then you know they’ve got a hell of a band”. And a helluva good photographer…

Jim says:

on March 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm

@ Kathryn first: The story of just how the guy got his Coldplay image you like and his subsequent treatment reinforces the disgusting and soul sucking PR/management driven era we’re in and how hard it is to get a decent image. And, yes, there are exceptions!

Second: as I’ve both shot Jim Morrison and Jerry Garcia and countless others and talked with but not shot Jimi, Warren Zevon and Bruce over the years I am totally saddened by the lack of access that actual working photographers now have. I was lucky and maybe better equipped then most but Jim Marshall and Baron Wolman and Harry Benson were my early heros for sure!
And remember, please, Annie Leibowitz replaced Jim and Baron (if memory serves) at Rolling Stone for like a $125.00 a week just so Jann Wenner could save on photo fees!!!!

Blaine says:

on March 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

Great post and tribute to one of the greats, Joe, thank you, and thanks for all the great comments posted as well. He shot in a different time and a different way, and for history sake, it’s too bad those times are gone….shooting rock and roll today is totally different, and we’re all the poorer for it. RIP Jim…

Tracy Milkay says:

on March 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Lovely tribute, Joe. A one of a kind soul is lost, for sure.

Joseph Rowland says:

on March 27, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Awesome tribute Joe. Always interesting to read about “who” inspired the person that inspires you. Thanks

Clark Scott says:

on March 27, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I met Jim in the bar of the W Hotel on Lexington a few years ago on Halloween. Since his photos lined the walls of the very hip bar across the lobby he got celebrity status, free single malts in quart-size glasses. He was in town to do some documentary for the Discovery Channel and he had an entourage that included a friend of his, another photographer who kept insisting my wife and I recognize that Jim was famous, along with a bevy of beautiful 20-somethings all in black who were somehow associated with his current project.

Everybody knows somebody famous so we weren’t impressed by Jim’s fame. Frankly, I had to Google him when I got home to find out who he was.

What I remember was telling him to go fuck himself and him telling me to do the same, and how we became instant friends after that exchange. We stayed up late talking about photography and he shared some great anecdotes about the people he had shot, from Janis Joplin to the Stones to the Beatles. He ended up inviting us to visit him in San Francisco.

I only met Jim that one time, and even though I didn’t know who he was then, it was a remarkable evening spent with a charming, no-bullshit-guy who could talk about getting the shot like no one else I’ve ever met before.

He insisted on signing his entourage friend’s book flyer for me. It read, “Fuck you. Jim Marshall.” Now that’s an autograph. And an epitaph.

Alejandro Cerutti says:

on March 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Bye Jim.
Great post Joe.

Alex from Argentina.

Fabio Chavarria says:

on March 30, 2010 at 12:20 am

Great photographer!!!! RIP

Fabio from Costa Rica

Tom says:

on March 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

There was a nice obituary for Jim in today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK. Shame it coincided with the announcement of photographer’s fees being cut by between 15 – 50 percent.

John says:

on March 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Isn’t it funny that we know the pictures, but not the man that captured them.

Doru Oprisan says:

on March 31, 2010 at 6:05 am

You cannot capture the wild spirit and the energy of rock’n’roll with rules.
Great article !

R.J. says:

on April 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Nice Tribute,

thanks for sharing your insight

fas says:

on April 17, 2010 at 7:03 am

May his soul rest in peace.

Johnny Garcia says:

on April 20, 2010 at 7:38 am

“An eye that doesn’t blink can be unflattering!” thanks, Jim I will keep it in mind; till my passing R.I.P with “GOD!”

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