as the Doors' "Light My Fire" was becoming the number
one song in America during July of 1967, I photographed the band
at a rock festival at Devonshire Downs in L.A.'s San Fernando
only two rolls of black and white film - plus a few frames of
color slides - for the whole day, I paced my shooting as I eagerly
awaited my first Doors show. Weaving through the colorful crowd
around the low plywood stage in a dusty field, from under some
tall eucalyptus trees I watched the band's roadies set up their
gear. When the Doors took the stage, Jim Morrison kept his back
to the audience as the band launched into an inspired and riveting
performance. Turning with a hair-raising howl, Morrison tore
into familiar lyrics and drove them home with passion. Along
with Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, he worked
a mesmerizing spell under clearing skies.
Drawn closer to the stage with every beat, I found a little space
onstage to do my work - with my focus almost entirely on Morrison.
Shooting the charismatic singer - who embodied a poetic commitment
to artistic rebellion - I felt the music sear through me with
a challenge: "We want the world and we want it NOW!"
By the time the Doors finished their set, I had very few frames
left for the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish or
Canned Heat, the day's closing act.
Called The Fantasy Faire and Magic Music Festival, the event
was hyped as Southern California's version of the Monterey Pop
Festival. As a student photographer on a limited budget, I saw
an opportunity to continue my documentation of some of the social
and political events of the California counterculture. Some previous
subjects had been the musicians and dancers at the Griffith Park
Human Be-In, Allen Ginsberg reading at USC, and Ravi Shankar
playing at Monterey Pop. Soon I would be adding Bay Area anti-war
and Black Panthers demonstrations to my portfolio, and eventually
my interest would shift to making super 8 films, long since lost.
Late in 1967, before transferring north to U.C. Berkeley, I put
all of my photos in storage - and forgot about them. After graduating
in 1969, I sold my equipment to finance my travels and lived
far off the beaten path for a long time. Many years later, upon
returning to Southern California and renewing my interest in
photography, I was surprised to find my pictures from the 60's
in near perfect condition - and literally untouched. The negatives
from the Fantasy Faire and the other events that I covered were
found with their proof sheets, but they had never been printed.
In the early 90's I began the long process that has resulted
in"Jim Morrison:Scream Sequence", a reworked 2001 version
of which is presented here. From viewing the first 3"x5"
photographic proofs I quickly realized that every shot was dominated
by the intensity of Jim Morrison. Not only was he remarkably
photogenic, but he was aware of cameras and seemed to move with
photographers in mind.
Having several sharp images showing Morrison full length, I envisioned
a tribute to him performing at the peak of his career - in his
prime. A mural of life-sized proportions was designed - with
generous help from many friends and artists who shared my desire
to revive the image of Morrison as a poet with a book -not always
a bottle - in his hand. Using the emerging digital graphics technology,
they helped in many ways to realize my idea of retouching, scaling
and composing the figures, which were no more than one-quarter
inch tall on the original 35mm negatives.
The finished work is an homage to the power and poetry of Morrison's
performance, as well as a reflection of his passion for film
and art. The rhythmic flow echoes both cinematic continuity and
the pioneering photographic studies of movement by Muybridge.
The eleven figures' stark contrast to their environment calls
to mind some contemporary full length portraiture, especially
by Longo and by Twitchell, who was a friend of Morrison's.
Surrounding the images of "Jim Morrison: Scream Sequence",
the white void may be seen as an invitation to join in the process
of creating this mural celebrating Jim Morrison as an inspiring
and poetic force of life.
(to be continued...)