Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Memoriam: Robert Culp and Jim Marshall

One was an iconic 1960s TV star, the other was unknown as a personality, but the photographs he took captured the musical icons of 1960s in a way few others have. Robert Culp and Jim Marshall passed away on March 24th -- one 79, the other 74 -- yet for some reason, Culp's passing, though sad, had no impact on me. He was an actor I enjoyed in repeats only. Because I grew up in one-TV-channel small town Ontario, I never saw his best known works (I Spy, the legendary “The Demon with the Glass Hand” from The Outer Limits) when they first ran. He always seemed more of my parent's era than mine. But reading about Jim Marshall’s death, even though he was only five years younger than Culp, left a deeper impression. Ironically, I never knew his name until today, but his images have been with me (in one way or another) all my life. Many of his most famous shots became record album covers, magazine and newspaper spreads, and they were flashed on TV in the 1960s right up until the present day. The two Marshall pictures posted above are not only part of my permanent memory bank; they have always been two of my favourite musician photographs.

Although I was too young to be part of the counterculture, the music and musicians from that era were what I grew up hearing. The Beatles, The Stones, Joplin, Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, even Johnny Cash, were all part of the soundtrack of my youth. Marshall took some of the best known photos of all of them. His approach was simple: classically framed medium close-ups of people who meant so much to us simply as they went about their jobs. What made his images so lasting is that he filled every shot with passion, enthusiasm and love for his subjects (not unlike the photographs the superlative photographer, Paul Hoeffler, took of the great jazz musicians in the 1950s). Marshall managed to capture images that were so 'in the moment' that you thought that you’d witness them taking their next breath.

Jim Marshall’s now taken his final breath. And a wee part of me went with him.

Joplin and Hendrix Photographs © James Marshall (

-- David Churchill is a film critic and author. He is putting the finishing touches on his first novel, The Empire of Death.

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