In 1967 at his New York studio, Joel Brodsky created what have now become the most recognisable portraits of Jim Morrison – capturing the self styled Lizard King at the peak of his physical and artistic powers. The Doors were poised to release two magnificent albums that year, their self-titled debut, The Doors, and, to many ears, their finest album, Strange Days. ‘Iconic’ is an overused word in the context of celebrity portraiture, but is bang on the money when used to describe Joel’s famous portrait, The American Poet, showing a bare-chested Morrison with arms spread out, staring into the camera. Joel Brodsky’s photographs appeared on the covers of The Doors first two albums, and subsequently on The Soft Parade and many Greatest Hits compilations.
2007 is the Doors’ 40th anniversary year, and the surviving members of the band are planning a feast of Doors related activities to celebrate, including a 4 hour international radio special, a feature length documentary for cinema release, previously unissued live recordings, twin volumes of Jim Morrison’s poetry, a coffee table photo/scrapbook, and significantly, a major exhibit of memorabilia at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
I wanted us to play our part in the celebrations, but how? The inspiration came from the new Doors biography by Ben Fong-Torres. The first ever rock ‘n’ roll billboard advertisement on LA’s Sunset Strip featured one of Joel’s portraits of The Doors, blown up to monster proportions. Seeing the archive pictures of this billboard ad on Sunset Strip in Ben’s book really hit it home to me how the visual impact of certain photographs increases dramatically with size.
I’ve always been struck by the power and purity of Joel’s portraits of Jim Morrison, and it seemed a logical step, and a fitting one, that the larger than life character that was Jim Morrison should be seen larger than life. We approached Joel to create something very special and exclusive just for us and which involved larger than life size versions of some of his classic portraits.
Unexpected tragedy struck in the run up to the launch of this exhibition, as Joel Brodsky suffered a heart attack and passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Joel had been heavily involved in all aspects of planning the show and he was couldn’t wait to come over to the UK to see the photographs on the walls : this was his first UK exhibition and the first time that his Doors photographs had been made in the enormous physical sizes that we are showing them. Any uncertainty over whether we should continue, given his sudden death, was put to rest by his wife, Valerie, who was certain that Joel would have wanted the show to go on : and so Joel’s estate have authorised the creation of these limited edition photographs, exactly as Joel had envisaged.
Consequently we are delighted to be exhibiting and offering for sale, for the first time anywhere in the world, ultra large size limited edition archival pigment prints of twelve of his classic photographs of Jim Morrison and of The Doors. These very large format prints have an image size measuring 50 x 50 inches (125 x 125cm) and are offered in limited editions of just 3 worldwide in this size. When framed, they measure approximately 59 x 59 inches (1.5m x 1.5m) Each photograph is embossed with Joel’s official archive stamp, individually numbered, and supplied with a certificate of authenticity from The Joel Brodsky estate. The prints themselves are made from Joel’s original 1967 negatives by master printer David Adamson of Atelier Adamson, who has been making Joel’s prints for many years and runs one of the world’s foremost fine art digital ateliers, located in Washington DC. This is the first time that these photographs have been made in this dramatic size, a fitting tribute in this 40th anniversary year.
Of course not every home or office has the wallspace necessary to take on these large artworks. Help is at hand as each of the photographs is also available to purchase in a smaller size, with an image measuring 25 x 25 inches (64x64cm). These alternate size prints are made in limited editions of 25 worldwide.
We are also offerering a special portfolio box, containing nine of Joel’s favourite Doors album cover photographs. Each archival print has an image which measures 9 x 9 inches, and is window-matted and is ready for framing. The set of nine prints is housed in a specially designed faux Lizard skin clamshell box. Just forty of these portfolio sets are available to collectors.
We recommend that you view this amazing collection in the flesh. Oh – you should bring some extra breath with you: the photographs will be taking most of it away.
About the prints
Each of these large format photographs is made in a limited edition of just three examples worldwide in this size. This is a very small edition, and reflects an increasing demand amongst collectors for artworks in smaller and smaller edition sizes, a sign of rarity and exclusivity.
The prints are made by master printer David Adamson of Atelier Adamson in Washington DC, one of the top fine art digital printers in the world today. Each element of the process is designed by David Adamson to ensure that the final prints in the exhibition are the best possible examples of the digital printmaker’s art: from the very high resolution drum scans made of Joel’s original negatives, through to the choices of archival pigment inks and high quality heavyweight 330 gsm papers.
The majority of photographs made in this large format are square, with an image size measuring 50 x 50 inches (127cm x 127cm). The paper on which the image appears measures 54 x 54 inches (137cm x 137cm).
Each limited edition photograph is embossed with the official stamp of the Joel Brodsky archive, numbered on the front under the image area, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Valerie Brodsky on behalf of the Joel Brodsky archive.
About Atelier Adamson
David Adamson was born in England, studied fine art and printmaking at Newcastle University and the Slade school in London. He is a Tamarind certified Master Printer and is considered by many to be the world’s highest-quality digital printmaker. His studio, Atelier Adamson, occupies a lofty position in the realm of digital fine-art printing. David launched Adamson Editions in 1979 as a lithography studio. In 1993 he launched an all-digital atelier devoted to fine art and photographic printing in Washington, DC. Adamson Editions’ prints hang in many private and public museums and collections.
Framing and shipping
We would be delighted to organise framing for purchasers. The external framed dimensions of a large format photograph measure 59 x 59 inches (150cm x 150cm). We use perspex as the glazing material as this is lighter than glass – an important factor with work this size. We can deliver unframed or framed photographs in the UK, and for overseas clients we would always recommend shipping photographs unframed.
Born, bred and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Joel Brodsky attended Syracuse University where he took a course in photography. After graduation he worked at alocal camera store acquiring the cameras he later went into business with. He served a stint in the army, and then worked as an assistant to one of New York’s top fashion photographers. In 1967 he opened his first studio and, after a period of mild starvation, he made his first music photographs as a favour : they were used on an album cover, and he was on a roll. His fourth cover shoot was for The Doors self titled debut album and this photograph was nominated for a Grammy. He went on to photograph many diverse artists from Aretha Franklin to Judy Collins, from Iggy Pop to Isaac Hayes and from Country Joe and The Fish to Gladys Knight & The Pips. Among his last album sessions was wth Kiss in 1975.
After losing his patience with musicians and frustrated by the reduced size of album artwork brought about by the introduction of CDs, he went back to fashion and beauty advertising photography.
Photographing The Doors
Most of Joel Brodsky’s photographs are the result of two studio sessions with The Doors in 1967. The first produced the Grammy nominated back cover photograph used on their first album, The Doors. This was a quadruple exposure combining portraits of the individual group members, a technically advanced piece of camera work long before the introduction of Photoshop editing software. This first 1967 session, in his Manhattan studio, also produced the photograph that was used on their fourth album, The Soft Parade, and many well known photographs of both the whole group and Jim Morrison alone (with his shirt on).
Joel also made the Strange Days album cover photograph, which features a group of circus performers dancing in an alley. The Doors don’t appear in person on the Strange Days cover – they are featured in a poster on the wall behind the circus troupe – this poster image is also by Joel, and was used on the back of their debut album. The concept for Strange Days started with The Doors’ suggestion of two dwarves holding a mirror with their reflection in it. Joel embellished this original idea with a nod of thanks to Henri Cartier-Bresson and Federico Fellini’s surreal 1954 circus road movie La Strada.
The second studio shoot was probably the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll photo session. Initially a group session, this gave rise to classic group portraits – one of which was used on the inner record sleeve of Strange Days. Later in the session, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore left Joel alone with Jim to make the classic photographs of a shirtless Jim Morrison that are known the world over. Strangely, Oliver Stone decided to portray Joel as a beautiful woman played by Mimi Rogers in his 1990 Biography movie ‘The Doors’. Joel’s photographs from this second studio session were eventually used on nine Doors album covers (and counting).
Joel Brodsky recalled his most famous shoot in a later interview : “The Doors were among the brighter groups I’d shot at that point. They had a visual orientation and seemed to understand the potential of a good photo session. Initially, there seemed to be a little jealously that Morrison was being put so up front in the photos, but basically the others understood that Jim was the sex symbol and an important visual focus for the band. After we’d done group shots, I shot some individual pictures of each member, saving Morrison for last. I knew I was going to be spending the most time with him, so I didn’t want them to have to sit around and wait too long. Well, while this was going on, Jim was drinking quite a bit. So by the time I got to shooting the individual shots of him, Morrison was pretty loose. The ‘American Poet’ shot was pretty near the end, I think. He wasn’t a wild drunk – actually he was kind of quiet – but his equilibrium wasn’t too terrific. Still, he was great to photograph because he had a very interesting look. It seemed like a good session to me, and then a week later, we ran one of the photos in The Village Voice. The story I’ve heard is that they got something like ten thousand requests for the picture. You know, Morrison never really looked that way again, and those pictures have become a big part of The Doors’ legend. I think I got him at his peak.”