The Three Poets, Richard Brautigan

As driven and talented a photographer as Jim was, I think deep in his heart it wasn’t images he was really in love with, it was words. It’s the only way I can explain his incredible affinity for writers, lyricists and, especially, poets. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jim spent his youth in a place and time (San Francisco in the ’50s and ’60s) that was practically exploding with creative energy; it was unleashed, free, uncensored, and roaming the streets looking for sounds and images with which to collide.  And so was Jim.

, Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash with June

Jim died one year ago today in New York City on the eve of a major Soho exhibition to herald “Match Print,” his collaborative book with photographer Timothy White. From your comments here on the blog and on our Facebook page, I can see that I’m not the only one who misses this profanely talented happy-sad, crazy-ass magnet of a man.  Writing this blog both helps and hinders. And that’s a good, appreciated thing.

Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Anita O'Day, Miriam Makeba

I’m not the first to notice that Jim had a thing for photos that showed his subjects (usually singers and often women) with their arms flung wide open.  Both in his shot selection in the moment and later, when he was poring over proof sheets looking for unsung “hero shots,” Jim’s eye and his heart were tuned to recognize these moments.

, Janis Joplin, Janis Joplin & Grace Slick, Janis Joplin & Grace Slick, Jim Marshall & Janis Joplin

Jim seemed on good terms with Grace Slick – he respected her, recognized her talent and beauty, seemed to think she was a class act, or at least that’s how he represented it to me – but his real connection was with Janis Joplin. Maybe it was just the alchemy that occurs when one mercurial soul magnetizes another, or his admiration for the sheer raw power of what Janis did on stage, but I think it was the trust she showed him.

, Bob Dylan & Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan

Behind every great man there has to be a great woman or so the cliché goes, and I think at times Jim was a big believer in this idea of selfless support, but more often than not I think he saw through the stereotype to realize the true power and creative spark that catalyzed some amazing women, their men, friendships and the relationships that he was lucky enough to witness. 

, John Coltrane, John Coltrane, Rain or Shine cover, Jim Marshall, Obama

One of the very first prints that Jim ever gave me was a B&W vertical 8” x 10” of a portrait he took of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane in 1960.  He gave me “Coltrane” in 1984 and to say I was “woefully ignorant” of jazz music would have been a serious understatement.  I think at that time my idea of a great jazz horn player, if I even had one, would have been Chuck Mangione.   

Jim’s classic, never-changing taste in clothing is no big secret, all you have to do is look at any shot of him -- whether taken when he’s 20 or 70.

Jim Marshall, Jim Marshall, Jim Marshall

Today, Feb. 3, 2011, would have been Jim’s 75th birthday.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Jim was amazingly sweet about some things, and remembering birthdays was toward the top of that list. I remember he would make a big deal about mine and then get rather morose around his own; I chalked it up to the age difference and the struggles to get his career back on track.

, Michelle

I met Jim Marshall in March of 1984. I was a journalism student at SF State in need of a last-minute subject for a “Whatever Happened to…” profile in John Burks’ advanced magazine writing course. I was 19 and, basically, clueless about a lot of things. Like, who the hell was Jim Marshall?

Another j-school student who knew of Jim’s work and his “dark side,” suggested Jim as a subject after I had my first interviewee fall through; I wish I could remember that guy’s name (Steve? Dave? John?) … anyway, he changed my life.

Welcome to the official blog of Jim Marshall Photography LLC. My name is Michelle Margetts and I’ll be serving as lead writer and editor of this conversation, pulling from my 25-year relationship with Jim and Amelia Davis’ encyclopedic knowledge of him and his body of work and, we hope, your stories, anecdotes and ideas, as well. Jim was without a doubt one of the biggest technophobes I have ever met. He loved beautifully constructed, elegant MACHINES.