The summer of 1967 in San Francisco was a magical time and place. 100,000 hippies descended and Jim Marshall was there to capture it all.
At summer of love, like a lot of young people, Jim Marshall was there. Drawn to the city’s Haight-Ashbury district by the surge of culture manifesting there—in music and fashion, in politics and mind-expanding drugs. Unlike the hordes of flower children washing up in the bohemian enclave that summer, Marshall was there to work. As a photographer employed by the biggest music labels in the business his job was to create a visual record of what Hunter S. Thompson would later lament as “the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”
In 1967, 100,000 hippies from across the country converged on San Francisco in a mass phenomenon dubbed the “Summer of Love.” Many were college kids on summer break and would leave come autumn—others stuck around to witness the Haight’s slow decline into a cultural wasteland. Marshall’s access to the day’s top bands—from Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles to the Grateful Dead—and the trust afforded him by celebrity musicians paved the way for his unparalleled set of images from the period. The photographer was even standing next to Timothy Leary when he uttered his infamous credo at the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park: “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
A new exhibition produced by the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, in conjunction with a city-wide celebration of the Summer of Love ’s 50th anniversary, features 80 prints from Marshall’s prolific 1967 output. The show proves the value of Marshall’s work as a historical document, but it is also, as SFAC Galleries director and co-curator Meg Shiffler describes, “an exhibition that focuses on the way that photographer Jim Marshall helped to define our cultural understanding of the Summer of Love, the San Francisco hippie movement, and the birth of psychedelic rock and roll.”
Marshall was the rare photographer whose work could impact the culture at large—not just music fans or students of history. It’s entirely possible his pictures might outlast the music itself, which in some cases wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Jim Marshall’s 1967 exhibition produced by the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries, in conjunction with a city-wide celebration of the Summer of Love ’s 50th anniversary, features 80 prints from Marshall’s prolific 1967 output and is on view at San Francisco City Hall, free and open to the public through June 17, 2017.