Alfred George Bailey’s Show Me The Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall is a documentary portrait of the American photographer. Marshall is considered by many to be ‘the Godfather’ of music photography, having photographed legendary events such as the last live show of The Beatles, Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix putting his guitar on fire and Johnny Cash performing in jail, to mention just a few. Chances are that you have seen at least one of his pictures even if you have no interest in music. Marshall’s camera has documented numerous defining moments of the previous century, including the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam war protests, the murder of J. K. Kennedy and many others. His photographs have undeniably contributed to society’s image of that time.
In the film, Marshall’s picture is painted through numerous stories of people who knew him. Yet what makes this would-be traditional interview style documentary stand out are the numerous footages, pictures and songs from the musical life that he documented intermixed with interviews, ensuring the film never becomes dry. The documentary doesn’t follow a linear timeline but instead jumps back and forth; a way of storytelling that correlates with the unruly picture of Marshall’s personality that emerges. His personality appears as a mosaic comprised of pieces showing him as a teenager clipping out pictures of camera models for his scrapbook, a small figure allowed into dressing rooms and backstages where journalists were never let in, an outsider kid with a difficult childhood, and eventually, as an active drug user consuming more cocaine than the Rolling Stones. The film thus by no means is a romantic tribute to the photography legend; it also speaks a lot about the inner demons that Marshall fought. ‘I love cars, guns and cameras. Cars and guns got me in trouble, cameras didn’t’ – Marshall confesses. At the very beginning he appears as a ‘malevolent gnome’ in the words of his former girlfriend and later as a drug addict described by his assistant Amelie Davis who admitted quitting him several times, only to be begged to come back.
Through Marshall’s character and the words of his contemporaries, the film also speaks about the art of documentary photography. It appears first and foremost as inextricable from human connection, even as a means of connecting with people. ‘If you don’t have access to people, you won’t get the pictures’ are words that recur throughout the film. Most of the interviewees admire the extraordinary connection that Marshall had with the musicians, which afforded him such closeness. Get close physically, not simply by zooming in. Marshall’s life story also seems to reflect the history of documentary photography; it goes through both the good times and also the 1980’s commercialisation of photography that Marshall fiercely opposed. Finally, it is a story about the immense love for photography that went beyond all obstacles.
The film should not be missed by music enthusiasts, photography lovers and those who have nothing in common with the two. For it is a story not only about them, but also about the passion and love for anything that you do, and it really inspires.
Image: thirdeyevision010 via pixabay