It was while skipping school to wait for Bob Marley to arrive for his sound check at the Speak Easy Club on London’s Margaret Street that Dennis’s music photography career really began. Bob Marley was so taken with the young teenager who was waiting for him that he invited Dennis to come along and take pictures on their upcoming tour. Dennis packed his bag and jumped on the bus.
Morris and Marley felt an immediate connection, as Morris stresses, this was a man who “knew he was on a mission”. He was out to break down barriers and confront intolerance through his actions and through his rebel music. Morris’ first photographs of Bob taken at the Speakeasy in 1973 are grainy and dimly lit – just one spot of light catches the instantly recognizable features. The expression on Marley’s face is intense, such was his total immersion when on stage. “He could have been praying, he could have just got hit by a bullet, he could even been laughing,” says Morris, describing his favorite image of this time. “Seeing him live, he expressed himself in all those ways: in his face, his movements, his eyes, everything.” Other photographs in Morris’s reportage-style collection capture Marley backstage, on the tour bus and at home in Hope Road, Kingston, Jamaica. They are all intimate images but they focus on the public Bob Marley.
“He wasn’t a very tall man, but he was a giant of a man. He had immense presence, and the beauty was that it spread on to you. You had to really get your act together.”
“I think when he died, half of Jamaica suffered,” says Morris. “He fed a lot of people, he supported a lot of people emotionally, financially. He put Jamaica on the map.” Marley was like a priest, recalls Morris. People would go to him with their problems and he would give them an answer, and before he went on stage he was “almost like a shaman, drawing inspiration before they walk out to face the masses and give the message. Then he’d walk on stage and the place would light up.”
About the exhibition:
The exhibition consists of 28 intimate portraits and live shots of Bob Marley in black and white and color taken by Dennis Morris. A special collaboration print by Shepard Fairey & Dennis Morris will be released on opening night.