photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
years ago when i was an secondary english teacher as a matter of necessity (i was tasked with creating an elective) i started teaching PHOTOGRAPHY. the class very much dovetailed with the online school newspaper i also helped initiate. there was some instruction regarding composition and light but the thing i always attempted to instill was the idea of capturing a MOMENT. french photographer HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON even had a term for it, THE DECISIVE MOMENT.
in the recent documentary SHOW ME THE PICTURE: THE STORY OF JIM MARSHALL (SAMPSONIC MEDIA, 2019) you are presented with an all too human figure in legendary PHOTOGRAPHER JIM MARSHALL who despite his serious shortcomings created an almost MYTHICAL body of work in how well he captured intimate moments with CULTURAL ICONS as they were in the ALCHEMICAL process of SPIRITUAL TRANSCENDENCE and ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT. being bombarded with his generation-defining photographs of the likes of MILES DAVIS, JANIS JOPLIN, BOB DYLAN, JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN COLTRANE, MUDDY WATERS, THE WHO, CHUCK BERRY, JOHNNY CASH, SANTANA, LED ZEPPELIN, B.B. KING, CREAM, THELONIOUS MONK, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, THE ROLLING STONES, JOHN LEE HOOKER, THE BEATLES, DUKE ELLINGTON, JOHN MAYALL, ARETHA FRANKLIN, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, DUANE ALLMAN as well as regular people during moments of POLITICAL STRIFE and PERSONAL COURAGE during the midst of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, it becomes apparent of his preternatural gift to anticipate the moment and capture it at its peak EMOTIONAL POTENCY. my breath was taken away because i have had t-shirts and posters of several of what i learned were his PHOTOGRAPHS. they are iconic 20TH CENTURY CULTURAL MOMENTS, no way around it.
and what makes this documentary so interesting is that for a man with such SENSITIVITY and INTIMATE capacity to capture such images, there was an alternate figure that inhabited the same body that harnessed a mountain of SELF-LOATHING, manic drug consumption and glowing adoration of the PHYSICAL INTERPERSONAL INTIMIDATION that came with gun-wielding. its very much a JEYKLL and HYDE dynamic at play which allowed him unlimited access and deep TRUST on the part of his subjects and the manufactured fear and loathing of those who tried to get close to him. growing up in a single-parent immigrant household with just memories of a brutally ABUSIVE father, it make sense that he had issues with INTIMACY outside of what he found in his viewfinder.
but we are all the more enriched that his work exists and its interesting to consider how the medium itself has transitioned in recent years with the advent of SOCIAL MEDIA and the the proliferation of amateur photographers utilizing the camera phone in their pocket. we are inundated and bombarded on a minute-by-minute basis with an unrelenting cacophony of poor PHOTOGRAPHY. much like music, PHOTOGRAPHY itself has been DEVALUED since the advent and CULTURAL UBIQUITY of the IPHONE over the past two decades. id argue such a state of affairs makes his work stand out that much more. its interesting to consider that he left the field in the late 1970s once his access became limited by the CORPORATIZATION OF LIVE PERFORMANCES. in true capitalistic form, even someone as brilliant as MARSHALL was DISPOSABLE and seemingly REPLACEABLE by know-nothing bean counters and invested parties who wanted to control all assets of wealth-generation, including event PHOTOGRAPHS.
so MARSHALL marks the end of an era of sorts. its hard to believe that his kind will appear again, just given the state of the music business and the pervasiveness of SOCIAL MEDIA. again, we are all enriched by his work and hopefully this documentary will shed some light on what to the public is an often invisible occupation.
this documentary is a revelation. SHOW ME THE PICTURE is definitely worth checking out.
photo & text by nacrowe
written between the 1965-66 season after having won eight of his eleven total championships with the BOSTON CELTICS (whom i despise more than you can possibly imagine), GO UP FOR GLORY (PENGUIN, 1966) is a memoir by BASKETBALL legend and CIVIL RIGHTS icon BILL RUSSELL that is as much about the fight for human dignity as it is about professional competition at an elite level.
i found this book to be fascinating in how RUSSELL presents the reader with an isnide perspective on the beginnings of the NBA as a business and how race played a part right from the start. i had no idea that ABE SAPERSTEIN, founder and owner of the HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS effectively strong-armed the league into limiting integration for years. he did this through threatening team owners with boycotting their stadiums (all the original teams were created by owners of arenas, the league much like professional hockey was an excuse for attendance). RUSSELL was the second BLACK player to ever play for the CELTICS and there was very much an unpublicized but very hard quota on the number of BLACK players on each team throughout the late 50s and early 60s.
RUSSELL fought this injustice by being outspoken about the quota.
due to my time in high school in MASSACHUSETTS, i will always hate all professional teams from that region, especially the CELTICS and RED SOX. but RUSSELL is beyond reproach even in my knee-jerk insane fandom. not to lionize him too much, but like that of MUHAMMED ALI, JIM BROWN, JACKIE ROBINSON, KAREEM ABDUL-JABAR, ROBERTO CLEMENTE and COLIN KAEPERNICK, he is a the embodiment of a deeper humanity we should all aspire to and very much took took risks when others didnt for the sake of everyone.
for me this book is very compelling since RUSSELL showcases a period when the CIVIL RIGHTS movement was very much in its nascent stages from the perspective of a national sports figure. the striking thing is how such a platform rendered him nothing outside the confines of the basketball court. in the arena he was unstoppable, outside he was just another target of dehumanization by a racist backward society bent on its own destruction.
i could go on about this, but even during the height of his playing career (he still had another three championships to go!) he somehow had the perspective to recognize the importance of the moment and the courage to share his unique perspective as a prominent professional athlete in a nation that dehumanized him. i cant even begin to imagine the courage. its like LEBRON JAMES staring down FOX NEWS expanded exponentially.
deeply impressive memoir by an AMERICAN icon. should be read in schools. end stop. or at least i should have been given the option to back in the day instead of the recycled meaningless dribble they force down your throat.