Words by Jesse Serwer and Michael Watson
Bob Marley isn’t just the greatest reggae singer of all time, he’s also the most photogenic. In just about every shot you can find of the singer, who was born 70 years ago today, his presence leaps off the page or screen. Marley is by no means the only creative genius to exhibit this sort of magnetism in still images, but the sheer number of brilliant Marley photos is astounding when you consider the timeline, years before the Internet, as well as the short span, of his career.
Among those who were fortunate enough to capture Marley in moments both intimate and public were several photographers whose careers have been largely defined by their work with the singer, like Lee Jaffe, the part-time Wailers member who documented the group throughout the ’70s, and Dennis Morris, who was 16 when Marley handpicked him to shoot him for the Natty Dread album. For David Burnett, who photographed Marley for Time magazine and Rolling Stone in the mid ’70s before gaining renown for his images of the Iranian Revolution, Marley was one of many assignments in an illustrious career. Still, his work documenting Marley proved significant enough that Burnett published a book, Soul Rebel, featuring the more than 200 images he shot of Marley, in 2008. Earlier this week, these same images went on on display at New York’s Spur Tree Lounge, in a show also entitled Soul Rebel.
Instead of devoting our attention to Bob’s music as we usually do on this day, this year we thought we’d turn our attention to this astounding body of images. Along with writer and Marley expert Michael “Jah Raver” Watson of the Midnight Raver Blog, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite images. Scroll through them below, and visit the websites of the featured photographers to see more of their Marley shots and purchase prints.