In today’s blog I want to highlight one of the earliest of Jim’s multitude of hero shots and the first print he ever gave to me. It is a shot he took very, very early in his career and always said was one of his absolute favorites. A shot he referred to, with the abject simplicity of his that I came to find so endearing, as “Clown”. There’s a spread in Jim’s remarkable book “Proof” that features “Clown” on the righthand side and the original proofsheet on the left with the trademark yellow grease-pencil rectangle marking frame 33 to indicate the one to print. “Proof” is one of my favorite of Jim’s books because you can really get a sense of how he worked, what captured his eye, how selective he could be and how he was always working full frame with available light. Amazing. For those of you who may have missed it the first time, here’s my blog, “The ‘Proof’ is in the Shooting” where I muse on the book and its impact. I especially enjoyed speaking with collaborator Joel Selvin to pick his brain for some lovely recollections. Here’s the caption from Proof: “CLOWN (1962) Marshall snapped this backstage shot from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Columbus Circle in New York City. It was one of the first rolls of film he took when he arrived in New York for the first time.” One of his first rolls of film during his first time in NYC … I really don't think Jim was on assignment but rather just roaming around, doing his Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith street photographer thing. And, I bet he was paying for the film out of his own pocket. You can see how economical he is with his shot selection and also how many other amazing shots there were on just that one role.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
It’s that time of year when we all start thinking about gifts (the way we get hammered with the message across all media, I feel like I’m thinking about it when and whether I want to or not). And it’s sort of quirky that Jim hated the holidays because I rarely saw him with a bigger smile on his face than when he was making a present of something that he absolutely knew would delight the recipient. And I count myself among the most fortunate in that Jim’s generosity toward me really knew no bounds. I just thought to include this snap of my framed print of “Clown,” because it is a crowning part of my personal Jim Marshall collection. I’m not sure if you can see it, but Jim has written “For Michelle” on the mat just under the barrel. My print was made in 1984 not long after Jim and I met in March of that year. Jim made sure I noticed the inscription. My 19-year-old self sort of pretended to get what the huge deal was though, truthfully, I thought “For Michelle” was rather formal and unromantic. Also, while I really loved the shot, I was surprised it wasn’t from the music side of things. Obviously, I just did not at all get the implication of what he’d done… and with those huge brown eyes staring a hole through my head, he could tell. So then he practically shouted at me: “You don’t understand, I never write on my photos. I just don’t do it!” And I could tell that it was a sort of sacrilege, that something had literally forced his hand. So, of course, I was a bit freaked out and mortified to have seemingly inspired him to do such a thing, and then Jim proceeded to show me why. But some gifts remain best kept a secret.