He said: “When you see one of my photos, I want you to think: ‘What a great shot of Janis Joplin,’ not ‘What a great Jim Marshall photograph’.”
(March 24, 2010) Jim Marshall, the photographer who captured some of rock & roll’s most unforgettable images including photos of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar at Monterey Pop and Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin, died in his sleep last night in New York. He was 74.
Jim took great photographs. I knew Jim forever. I was there when he shot Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire at Monterey. Worked with him at Rolling Stone and West magazines. Respected him. This is probably the best known thing we ever did together: the marketing of “Janis. A Film.” A copy of this poster just sold at the biggest auction of classic movie posters. I didn’t get to tell Jim.
I was at Tony Seiniger’s motion picture marketing agency when asked to create this. The movie was all Janis Joplin. All her and her performing. I needed an image of her performing. And I needed an image that was not a documentary picture but a portrait. An image that said Janis Joplin. Not an event.
“…many of the pictures are offhand, documentary, off-hours, backstage shots with a very casual, grab-shot feel to them. JM says several times that his subjects ‘were just kids having fun,’ and in some cases you get the feeling that he was too.”
I knew Jim had taken the most pictures of her. I called him. He had the shot I needed. It was Janis. It was her firepower at work but it wasn’t yet that sculpture I needed to make this film present itself as a movie. It needed some work.
Knowing Jim felt he was not a portrait photographer—he was a photojournalist—I didn’t know how he would respond.
He captured time and times. And he captured our stars. I wanted a picture of Janis the star. Looking for hours at all of his documentation of Janis, I selected the shot on the poster. I picked the one that had her face not blocked by her hand or the microphone, just her face. But it needed work to be the single focus image I needed. If you look at another image from that set used later as the cover on Jim’s book Trust, you can see the difference. The shot on the book cover is a Jim Marshal photograph. The poster is a star image.
“He has said that his photographs are his children, and I believe that to be true…”–Michelle Dunn Marsh, Senior Editor, Chronicle Books:
Now how do I tell the photojournalist Jim Marshall I am going to bring out the best in one of his children as a portrait? “We will buy out all the rights and I will give you a first – a photo credit on a motion picture poster.” I said. I don’t think either made any difference.
“Despite a demeanor meant to scare people, those of us lucky enough to count Jim as a friend knew that he was a generous softie who probably gave away as many prints as he sold, and that was a lot…” Jon Sievert
If you compare the photographs here, I have marked, in messy red, the changes. I took the hair off her face, I untangled it from behind her, created more hair and a waist that was cropped out in the original; took out the mike stand, the trees, the cymbals and got the guiro out of her hand. I also flopped the image so I could have us looking into her, as well as to create room for a title to work typographically as a logo for Janis and her times. And this was back in the day before Photoshop…just paint and a good eye!
Take a look at the finished product again:
In one of his last interviews, a chat with Rolling Stone last October, Marshall summed up his rapport with rock stars best when talking about Joplin: “You could just call her at home and be like, ‘We have to take some pictures,’ and she’d say, ‘OK! Come over!’ She trusted me and knew I had her best interests at heart. I only wanted to make her look good.”
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Mike: Thanks to writer/director, Alan Metter, for this blog concept.
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Everyone had cocaine. A lot of people had fast cars. But Jim Marshall was the only person I knew who answered the doorbell with a gun. x Lloyd Z.
Mike: And a knife. 🙂
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Thanks very much! Great stuff you have been sending out. I checked NetFlix to see if they were distributing “Janis, a Film” and they were not. Is there any way that you can get them to carry it? Frederick D.
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BTW, thanks for puttin’ out a blog worth checkin’ out! Overton L.
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