Johnny’s Gift to Jim Marshall


Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Photo by Jim Marshall.


IN 1969, while performing at San Quentin State Prison, Johnny Cash gave photographer Jim Marshall a special gift. That gift, of all things, was the middle finger. It was something that will go down in the history books of music photography. A gift you ask? Yes. Photographers can only dream of their subjects opening up to them like that. It is something that only the subject can give away. A photographer can ask for it, but rarely will he or she truly receive it. This is definitely not to take anything away from Jim Marshall. Only an experienced photographer can capture something like this. It’s about putting yourself in the right situation and anticipating the moment. But what really makes it work is the trust the subject, in this case Cash, has with the person behind the camera. That goes a long way.

Portrait photographer great, Richard Avedon, once said, “A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he’s being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks. He’s implicated in what’s happening, and he has a certain real power over the result.”. Johnny knew what he was doing, and the end result is a caption of his legacy.

Sadly, last Wednesday, Jim Marshall passed away. He leaves behind a beautiful collection of photographs which ranges from The Beatles to Jim Morrison and everyone in between. Feel free to view more of Jim’s work, and the stories behind them, here.


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