One of the most important factors of Jim Marshall’s great success in capturing the life and times of the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco during its hippie/psychedelic ascent in the pivotal years of ‘65 to ‘68 is that Marshall had lived in the general area since he was two years old, having moved there from his birthplace of Chicago in ‘36. Marshall had only lived elsewhere for two years, that being NYC from ‘62 to ‘64, where he was very busy on assignments from Columbia, Atlantic and ABC/Paramount Records, essentially launching his photographic pursuit which quickly became a lifelong career. Marshall had taken his first photos in ‘59.
Marshall being truly tuned into into the scene in San Francisco, coupled with him being friends with most of the musicians and movers and shakers, allowed him the the critically key unfettered access and trust with his subjects that his kind of photography is hinged on. Once granted that most coveted access, Marshall inhabited the role of a reporter, the proverbial fly on the wall, never staging a single thing and almost never using a flash on his assortment of at least five Leica rangefinder type cameras. (They all had differing lens millimeter lengths.) The more invisible and discreet he could be, the better. Marshall did this so effectively that his subjects often forgot that he was even there, let alone photographing them. And photograph he did, to the tune of an astonishing million plus frames at the time of Marshall’s passing in ‘10, aged 74.
The Haight - Love, Rock, And Revolution, a 303 paged hard cover photographic book, large sized at 13’ X 9.5”, is a striking collection of images of many major rock figures in their youthful prime, as well day-in-the life photographs of what was happening in general in the area known simply “The Haight.” Released by Insight Editions of San Rafael, California, the book contains a very insightful and long bygone view into a neighborhood that went from being simple and rather ordinary to being the literal nexus, along with New York City’s Greenwich Village, of the counter cultural, youth movement during the heyday of all that the ‘60’s came to symbolize. Containing portraits, the most compelling being of Janis Joplin, as well as candid glimpses of people from different walks of life, street scenes of many sorts, the sundry drug den culture, the frequent concerts and jams as well as the hugely instrumental Human Be-In. This historic event was held in Golden Gate Park on January 14, ‘67, proving to be a prelude to San Francisco’s Summer of Love, which rendered the Haight-Ashbury district the most emblematic symbol of American counterculture and introduced the word “psychedelic” to the world over.
Marshall was right there to capture the radically evolving scene that was entirely rooted and instigated by the generation known as the baby boomers. With Marshall being about a decade older than them, he had the experience and skill set to photograph it all with high expertise while still being friends with virtually everyone that mattered. With both natives and visitors to San Francisco as subjects, the mostly black and white images contain Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, The Grateful Dead, John Lennon, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Allen Ginsburg, Bob Dylan, Timothy Leary, Bill Graham, Chet Helms and more. Illuminating text and context is provided by Joel Selvin, an accomplished and veteran San Francisco based music journalist and author, as well as a close friend of Marshall. Selvin has collaborated with Marshall on virtually every one of the photographer’s books since ‘92.
Amelia Davis is Marshall’s long time and loyal assistant. When Marshall passed in ‘10, hundreds of thousands of images were left in her care. Marshall never married and had no children. It was his photos that Marshall regarded as his children. Davis had the enormous task of going through Marshall’s massive assortment of negatives, and discovered a great amount that Marshall himself had left unaddressed. The neighborhood of the Haight was featured more prominently in this unearthed collection than anything else Marshall had done, before or since. Davis also found a notebook of Marshall’s titled “The Haight,” which contained notes concerning his attempt to have a book publisher pick up a book that Marshall wanted to release in ‘76 about the Haight, but there were no takers. In all, there were approximately 100,000 frames within the negatives of The Haight. Davis teamed up with Selvin to undertake the major undertaking of editing that down to the 305 photos that wound up in this book.
A thoughtful Forward and Afterward are provided by Jorma Kaukonen and John Poppy, respectively. Kaukonen was an original member and guitarist of the Jefferson Airplane and later formed Hot Tuna with fellow Airplane bassist and childhood friend Jack Casidy, and Poppy was a senior editor at the long defunct Look magazine, which was a direct competitor to Life magazine.
Life is an operative word here, as it truly went through historic change during these key years, and with the Haight being an absolute epicenter, this book goes to the heart of the matter. While many other photographers captured the spirit and times of it all, very few possessed the passion, drive, access and wherewithal to produce the goods that Marshall has. In the parlance of the era, it’s quite a trip, man. Highly recommended.