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-The Story-


Just 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 Valley.

With 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...)

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