by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
this is Jini Dellaccio, a self-portrait taken back in the (i think) early 1960′s. this woman is probably among the best and the greatest rock photographers of all time. she ranks up there with annie leibowitz, jim marshall, anton corbijn, charles peterson, anybody you can name. but, i bet you never heard of her, right?
born in rural indiana, she started out her creative life by playing saxophone in one of those all-girl swing bands during WW2 (a pop phenom that vanished when all the war vets came back home). she attended the art institute of chicago and was exposed to photography. her good looks lended her to starting a small modeling career. that exposed her to business connections and then she went behind the camera as a rather successful fashion photographer. she married (i believe he was an architect) and moved to gig harbor, on the other side of the infamous narrows bridge (“galloping gertie”) from the fabled metropolis of tacoma, washington.
she immersed herself in fashion photography and used her business contacts to build a wonderful and stylized portfolio of work. back home in gig harbor, she was was fascinated with the “northwest school” art movement and her photographic work became one of the leaders and influences in that world. life was good.
somehow, somewhere along the way, she became exposed to the tacoma music scene – that loud nasty rock and roll sound that was emerging up here – the wailers, the sonics, the kingsmen, louie louie, don and the goodtimes on and on. she was entranced by the gritty energy of the kids at the armories and the old road houses. it was a natural that the bands themselves would start to ask the pretty lady with the professional camera to take their pictures, too. a funny thing happened, the kids loved her and they embraced her as one of them.
so, jini’s photos, done in a semi-fashion photo style and nailed to the floor by that “northwest school’ nature-look became the visual voice fo the NW rock scene that WAS the nastiest, rockiest punkiest music scene this side of detroit. in fact, mojo magazine actually starts their “history of punk” with the first LP by the sonics (“here are the sonics”) – sporting a really dismal reproduction of a jini dellaccaio photo. from here she tackled formal (and often amusing) promo portraits for the bands all the way to wild live performance shots of the bands (and touring bands like the who, the yardbirds, mitch ryder and the rolling stones) as well as all that backstage cool of all of them.
her work dominated the style that we now consider “punk’ photography. it is rather strange to consider this beautiful refined and careful style of jini’s could possibly be a starting point for something as crude and anarchistic as punk photo style (since we always look to new york city for these things.) but, the NW rock scene of the early sixties WAS punk. and the way punk looked back then, was all jini dellaccio. and over the last 40 years or more, it morphed into the way punk looks now. strange, but true
as a young teenage kid (13/14 years old) i was personally so influenced by the images on those early LP covers of the sonics, that i actually tried to dress like them. i went out and bought those ‘desert boots’ they wore and had my hair cut in a sloppy collegiate mess. i even went so far as to seek out a coat like they all seem to wear on the cover of “sonics BOOM”. i would stand in front of a mirror dressed like that and think i was a rocker. i even kept that look virtually until today (within variations of hair length, of course).
soon, jini’s work ended up making contact with people in the entertainment center of LA, where the biggest coolest most popular rock scene in the world (outside of london, of course) was happening and she got assigned by an agent to shoot some photos of their new “signings”. the guy she was assigned was shy young artist fresh into his initial ‘solo’ phase after being rather successful in a hot rock combo called “the buffalo springfield.” jini spent the weekend with a shy neil young – him dressed in full ‘fringe’ – and took many many portraits of him all over the northwest. even though he was too shy to barely talk to her (she was an older, extremely pretty, artistic woman, something most rockers had no clue how to deal with), came back with a series of portraits that are virtually unmatchable in neil young’s history. this led to a friendship and several more sessions. it also led to many more photo sessions with many other now famous (then unknown) artists.
jini eventually went into a long period when she virtually left the business. she spent many many years caring for her late husband. she moved to the southwestern desert to make life easier. and she was forgotten. almost. in the last decade, she has been re-discovered and her entire portfo
and all her files have been saved from deterioration. as experts have dug through her work , so many wonderful pieces have been found and seen for virtually the very first time. it’s become a treasure trove of not just northwest art history, but of rock and roll history. she has become one of the major documentarians of that era in the northwest and rock history. and what wonderful documents they are.
a group named “the jini dellaccio collection” is carefully archiving and restoring and preserving her work for posterity. there has been one small beautifully printed limited edition volume already produced (“rock&roll’:jini dellaccio”) that has seen daylight. but, i’m dying to own the coffee-table tome that will show the world what great game that gal has.
has? yup, she’s still with us. i think she’s 95 as of this writing. and she’s still the most beautiful, smartest, coolest rock chick you’ll ever meet.
until july 29th, there is a nice exhibit (but small – even though the prints are huge) at the harbor history museum in gig harbor. i HIGHLY recommend you make the beautiful drive over to gig harbor, washington, (over the legendary narrow bridge) and check it out. you won’t be sorry.
also, check out “jinidellaccio.com” and see what i’m talking about.