Iconic. Historic. Groundbreaking. These are just some of the adjectives that may be used to describe both the Rolling Stones and renowned, music photojournalist, Jim Marshall.
The exhibition, Jim Marshall: The Rolling Stones and Beyond presents visitors with a look at some of Marshall’s never-before-seen photos from the Stones 1972 tour of their Exile on Main Street album as well as a number of other legendary music figures of the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of the highest grossing tour of the time, with a four-million-dollar box office, and the 50th anniversary of the band. Marshall’s incredible body of work includes artists such as, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Janis Joplin and countless others. The Steven Kasher Gallery delivers some 60 photographs of the most moving, intimate and unrestricted moments of these various iconic figures. A main wall of the gallery reveals over one hundred vintage record covers spanning his career.
Marshall was one of the first professional photographers to demand the copyright of his images. Because of this, according to his assistant of 13 years, Amelia Davis, Marshall has close to one million images that are solely his – now under the control of Davis after his passing in 2010.
A photographer herself, Davis discussed how she met Marshall at a 30th birthday party for a friend in 1997. She admittedly stated that she had no idea who he was at the time. They chatted about a book Davis was writing discussing breast cancer – her mother a survivor. Marshall echoed its importance and wanted to help; they met for lunch at his house – one block away from Davis in San Francisco! They developed a devoted friendship, and she became his assistant. “When we would go out, he would announce me as: ‘This is my assistant, Amelia Davis. She is the disease photographer.’ We had a very unique, close relationship. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him and have him in my life.”
On the topic of work, “He demanded full access,” Davis stated. “He would say, ‘You hire me with full access or I don’t do the job.’ That was the only way he felt he could get the true essence of whoever it was.” Marshall had the complete trust of the artists. Davis describes how the cameras were an extension of him. “It didn’t seem odd anymore,” she explained. “He always had about five cameras on him.” Part of his success, Davis notes, is most likely contributed to the fact that there was never a musician, a record label, or a manager that ever complained about what photograph he used. “That was priceless,” she states. The work speaks volumes about this impeccable reputation. The images echo the trusting relationship and confidence Marshall had with his subjects. Backstage, onstage, and amid various environments, he reflected the humanity behind these larger-than-life figures. “They weren’t these gods on a pedestal,” Davis explains. Perhaps, this is what is so compelling for those of us who look on in awe at his work. We see the many facets of these icons that we never imagined.
Additionally, these photos reflect important moments in American history – both musically and politically. In many ways, numerous artists photographed were making important political statements about the world around them – the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, for example. Davis expressed how Marshall was documenting history and how she hopes to continue his legacy: “My mission in life is to really show people Jim’s entire body of work, which is quite large and diverse. Everything he did I think are pieces of history. He gets pigeonholed as a music photographer. But, music was just the subject. If you look at them as photos, they’re amazing portraits. He documented history. One of his quotes was, ‘I was a historian without knowing it.’ I think that’s really true. He was documenting pieces of history that would never happen again, and I think that needs to be there for future generations to see. That’s my goal – to get his body of work out there and really give him the recognition that he deserves.” His work continues to speak volumes to viewers decades later.
Jim Marshall: The Rolling Stones and Beyond was on view at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York from 5 July to 12 August, and again from
3 to 8 September.