Book Review: Trust: Photographs By Jim Marshall

Trust: Photographs of Jim Marshall
Published by Omnibus Press
Review by David Chiu

“Whenever anyone asks me how I got the photographs I did,/why I was often the only photographer present or got such unique access/ I reply simply Trust.” Those were the words of photographer Jim Marshall in the introduction of his recent photo book Trust. He knew what he was talking about because that approach resulted in a legendary body of rock and roll photography that has spanned four decades.

Trust is now more poignant than ever now that Marshall passed away last week at age 74, so it serves as a fitting tribute to a true artiste. Especially for fans of ‘60s music, Marshall captured the pivotal figures and moments from that decade such as Jim Hendrix lighting up his guitar at Monterey; rock sirens Grace Slick and Janis Joplin sharing a moment together; Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, and of course Woodstock. Other artists in the book include such luminaries as the Who, Mick Jigger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan; and most recently Sarah McLachlan and members of Velvet Revolver.

A couple of things stand out about Marshall’s photography. His portraits convey an intimacy that is not staged but rather authentic—it thus speaks volumes about the subject. It’s as if we are right there with the photographer at that moment whether it is witnessing Big Mama Thornton delivering an electrifying vocal performance inside a recording studio; being with jazz deity John Coltrane at his Queens backyard; or sitting in John Lee Hooker’s room in California. Simultaneously, Marshall’s concert photography are equally compelling: blues legend Howlin’ Wolf rocking out at Berkeley; gospel great Mahalia Jackson raising the roof at Carnegie Hall; and the Rolling Stones performing at Altamont. (My favorite photos in the book are that of Miles, one in performance; the other is of him taking a phone call with his boxing glove).

The photographer’s commentary for nearly each of the photographs in this book reveal his personality : blunt, not short of modesty, and yet is fiercely passionate about the work itself and the subject. While some of Marshall’s photographs are reflective (including one of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst), the majority of them evokes the sense of joy and passion emanating from the performers—whether it’s onstage or backstage or at home—and in turn it feeds into us. To be able to do those things in each and every work is the mark of a great photographer.

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