“Joel Brodsky and the Lizard King”

“The story I’ve heard is that they got something like ten thousand requests for the picture” Joel Brodsky

Joel Lee Brodsky (October 7, 1939 – March 1, 2007) was an American photographer, best known for his photography of musicians, particularly his iconic “Young Lion” photographs of Jim Morrison.

Brodsky was born in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Syracuse University in 1960. While working at a camera store in Brooklyn, he began a side career of photography and opened his own studio in 1964.

In his lifetime, he is credited with photographing over 400 album covers:

The Doors, The Doors (1967)

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 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”. Joel Brodsky


 “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.” Joel Brodsky

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.

Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

David Ackles, David Ackles (1968)
Doc Watson in Nashville: Good Deal!, Doc Watson (1968)
Nazz, Nazz (1968)
The Soft Parade, The Doors (1969)

Kick Out the Jams, MC5 (1969)
The Stooges, The Stooges (1969)

Memphis Underground, Herbie Mann (1969)
Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty, Herbie Mann (1970)
McLemore Avenue, Booker T and the MG’s (1970)
The Isaac Hayes Movement, Isaac Hayes (1970)

Joel’s archive containts a comprehensive archive of blues musicians and artists who recorded on the legendary Stax label. Many of Joel’s most important Stax portraits are held in the permanent collection of the Stax Museum of American Soul in Memphis

…To Be Continued, Isaac Hayes (1970)
Air, Air (1971)
Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, Funkadelic (1971)
Black Moses, Isaac Hayes (1971)

Push Push, Herbie Mann (1971)

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.

Carly Simon, Carly Simon (1971)

Pleasure, Ohio Players (1972)
Pain, Ohio Players (1972)

Ecstasy, Ohio Players (1973)
Kiss, Kiss (1974)

Among his last album sessions was with 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.

Since the beginning of the new century, there has been a worldwide revival of interest in Brodsky’s rock ‘n’ roll pictures, with several exhibitions across the USA and in Europe.


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