Bob Marley through the Eyes of Kate Simon

Marley, the new Bob Marley documentary by Kevin Macdonald, has opened to great reviews at the SXSW and Berlin Film Festivals. [Also see previous posts New Film: Kevin MacDonald’s “Marley” and Getting to know Bob Marley.] Hailed by film critics as ‘the definitive biography of the reggae legend’, Marley features concert footage, interviews with Bob’s friends and family, and photography by the awe-inspiring artist Kate Simon, author of Genesis limited edition Rebel Music: Bob Marley & Roots Reggae (2004). Kate Simon is considered to be “the” Bob Marley photographer. Her photographs are renowned as the best and definitive of Bob Marley and the Wailers in their formative years.

Simon shot such legendary performances as the 1978 One Love Peace Concert, and The Wailers at The Lyceum in 1975 where ‘No Woman No Cry’ was recorded; took the iconic cover of Kaya; and captured Bob in candid moments from 1975 until his death in 1981. These photographs, and over 400 more, are presented in Rebel Music, a celebration of the life and legacy of Bob Marley. (Eric Clapton, Steven Van Zandt and Patti Smith contributed to the book, as well as ex-Wailers Junior Marvin and Family Man Barrett, Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell, and members of the Marley family.)

About her career path, Simon says, “Dave Fudger, an art director at Disc, got me my first proper job. I showed him a picture I’d shot of Elton John. He liked it and based on that one picture I got a gig as their photographer. After that I shot everybody. [. . .] Between 1973 and 1975, you name them, I shot them; from The Rolling Stones, through Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie to Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper. I photographed Keith Moon being denied entry to the BBC Club. I would shoot offstage sessions all day and concerts at night. It was a great time.”

Asked about her “knack” for getting some of the most candid shots of Bob Marley, the photographer responds, “There was no technique – it was all Bob. He allowed such intimate access – he really was a sent from heaven as a photographic subject. He had exquisite sense of self possession, and simultaneously (I don’t know how to phrase this exactly) – well, he was a photographer’s dream. He was so collaborative, and such a chilled, lovely man – he was just so helpful. And that’s why some of these shots were so candid. All of his features were incredible! He had an impeccable face, great cheekbones and was very photogenic, he had this beautiful joy to him. Bob’s face could look incredibly dramatic. Alternatively he could look really joyful. You always got the feeling that behind it, there was an incredible intelligence at work. This was not all smiley happy people having fun – there was an intensity and a fire burning behind it all.”

For full interview with Kate Simon, see

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