Happy Birthday Week Bob Marley: Allan Tannenbaum Talks Capturing A Legend In His Prime

Happy Birthday Week Bob Marley: Allan Tannenbaum Talks Capturing A Legend In His Prime

Source: Dan Bassini / Morris Hotel Gallery


The term legend has become synonymous with his name as a result of timeless ‘chunes,’ more specifically the title to his 1984 greatest hits LP alongside The Wailers: best-selling reggae album of all time, Diamond certification and them some, and an album cover photo immortalized into the minds of many.

Bob Marley. Legend. A fitting title indeed.



As many across the world take this week to celebrate what would’ve been the late musician’s 79th birthday (February 6), whether by playing greatest hits or preparing to go see his upcoming biopic, Bob Marley: One Love, releasing next week on Valentine’s Day, it’s safe to say the reggae pioneer is currently a topic of heavy discussion and missed on a massive level across the nation.

Speaking of imagery, we recently took a visit to a NYC gallery where many of his most iconic photos were featured in an exhibition at Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo.



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The exhibit, which will run until Feb 26 as the biopic airs in theaters, has an emphasis on Marley but also features rare imagery taken of reggae icons like Peter Tosh, Joe Higgs and Jimmy Cliff. Some of the photographer’s themselves made sure to have a presence during the night, including the work of Kate Simon in her new book, Rebel Music: Bob Marley and Roots Reggae. We also got a chance to speak with renowned photographer Allan Tannenbaum, who’s captured some of the most timeless imagery of rock icons throughout his formative years in the 1970s and 1980s.

Here’s what Tennanbaum told us in regards to the images on display that he captured of Bob Marley in his prime, and even shares the reason that made one shot in specific his favorite:

“I was very lucky in the ’70s and early ’80s to be working for a paper called ‘The SoHo [Weekly] News’ where I could cover all the music that was happening in New York — all kinds of music. When the reggae phenomenon hit, I knew it was something special, and of course I wanted to take pictures and meet the artists. 

To photograph Bob Marley was great, both in the performances which were phenomenal and simply being in an interview with him; he was just a star in so many ways. His music was fantastic, but the shows — the vibe at his performances from the feel to his presence — it was all very special. It inspired my photography, including the other reggae stars I was fortunate enough to meet and photograph like Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals and Peter Tosh. They’re all great, all wonderful, but Bob Marley is in a league of his own. 

It’s great when you get to do a portrait because that’s a one-on-one and you get that person to look at you with great eye contact. It really shows something about the person you’re photographing when you get a good one. Very special, but when it comes to performances, even with the distance and often unawareness from the performer, you can get some great moments. My favorite one is where he’s in movement — it’s a horizontal shot and he’s holding a mic — with his dreads swirling. Somehow the blur on the face, although it’s not sharp, has beautiful movement. You can’t always capture that in a still photograph.

The movement made that photo very special to me.”



Take a look below at a few more photos that were featured in the Bob Marley: One Love gallery exhibit currently on display, with official  prints for sale as well, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC:


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