Celebrated northwest Rock photographer Jini Dellaccio passes away at 97

Bw_self-portrait_Jini_DellacioJini Dellaccio whose photography work included many top northwest music acts of the 60’s passed away July 3rd at the age of 97.

Born in Indiana on January 31, 1917, Jini was best known for her images of rock and pop acts of the 1960s, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Her photographs of the Sonics, the Wailers, Merrilee Rush, the Daily Flash and many others were frequently used for album covers, posters, and publicity stills, along with her shots of major acts such as Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, and the Who – have been widely reproduced in books, CDs, articles, and gallery exhibitions. As a teenager during the Great Depression she played saxophone with the “Girl Groups” of that era, giving her a lifelong affinity for the scruffy musicians that would later become the focus of her work.

By 1964 the members of one of the Northwest’s most popular rock band, the Wailers, based in Tacoma, were looking to upgrade the quality of the cover art of their records, which they released on their own label, Etiquette Records. They contacted graphic designer John Vlahovich, who recommended they speak to promotions-man Barrie R. Jackson. Jackson had seen Dellaccio’s exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum, and suggested that they ask her to do the album cover shoot. She agreed, but instead of photographing them at her home studio, she had them walk around a local park. The resultant photos were used on the Vlahovich-designed cover of the album Wailers, Wailers, Everywhere, which was a regional best-seller. Dellaccio was soon in high demand, her photographic style seeming to have captured what DJ and concert impresario Pat O’Day described as “the Northwest cool” and  Dellaccio brought a remarkable degree of sophistication to her portraits of blue-collar rock musicians.

Although twenty or more years older than most of her subjects, Dellaccio felt an affinity for the Northwest’s rough-edged proto-punk music scene and its characters. Avoiding the standard, formal studio techniques of the time, she frequently photographed bands outdoors, often in the rustic environs of her home studio in Gig Harbor. She usually used black-and-white film. Her images of sharply-dressed young musicians, sometimes clowning but more often skulking in naturally beautiful settings created an unusual and distinctive look. Her in-studio work often made use of moody lighting and staggered, non-uniform poses. Her approach placed her firmly in the vanguard of a new and more creative style of commercial photography that would take root in the late ’60s and ’70s.

Among the dozens of Northwest bands she photographed were Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Galaxies, Don and the Goodtimes, Mr. Lucky and the Gamblers, the Bootmen, the Bards, the Daily Flash, Emergency Exit, Bodine, and City Zu. Her images of the Sonics and the Wailers, in particular, have become garage-rock icons.

In addition to session work, Dellaccio’s attraction to the burgeoning music scene led her to documenting live performances by both regional acts and touring stars such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, the Shangri-Las, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Johnny Rivers, and others. Recalled Wailers bassist Buck Ormsby: “She was asked to do some publicity shots. The next thing I know, she’s taking pictures of everyone: the Wailers, Sonics, everyone. And it wasn’t that she just started shooting publicity shots, she was going to gigs, hanging out; it was like she just fell in love with the music.”

As notice of Dellaccio’s skills spread, she occasionally travelled to California for jobs, including a memorable 1967 session with Neil Young.

She continued regularly photographing bands and musicians into the 1970s.

Cover photo from Wikipedia by Joe Mabel

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