A Wailer of a time with Bob

BOB Marley is both a household name and an enigma. Iconic in his public life as a performer, it is Marley’s private moments which are laid bare for the first time in a new exhibition in Camden.

Photographs taken by Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who spent two years with Marley and his contemporaries in Jamaica and LA during the “golden age” of reggae, are currently on show at the Proud Camden gallery in Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road.

Marking the 30th anniversary of Bob Marley’s death next month, the exhibition showcases intimate portraits – including never before seen shots – of Marley and his contemporaries.

The photographs, taken in 1975 and 1976, are not conventional images of Marley, brooding and posed. Their candid nature shows an off-duty musician messing around with Gottlieb-Walker’s son or reading about himself in the newspapers. Some of the images even show a whisper of a smile.

The show is photojournalist Gottlieb-Walker’s first lone exhibition despite documenting musical icons from Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley and Clint Eastwood.

By the mid-70s, she was married to Jeff Walker, head of publicity at the newly-formed Island Records office in LA, where the pair were tasked with introducing reggae to America.

She said: “There was no reggae in the United States at that point at all. Bob was known in the UK and he was known in Jamaica but not in the USA.”

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In 1975, Marley arrived in LA and Gottlieb-Walker shot behind- the-scenes pictures at his press interviews.

It was on this trip that she snapped one of the most alluring images of the set – a chance meeting with Beatle George Harrison backstage at the latter’s concert in the famous Roxy Theatre.

“When Bob heard that George was coming, he got really excited. He said, ‘Ras Beatle!’ Gottlieb-Walker said. “I had a flash on my camera and the batteries were dying – they were only together for two minutes and you had to wait 30 seconds to get a charge. It was agonising. But I got the picture in the end and that’s all that matters.”

The following year Gottlieb-Walker and her family went to Jamaica to stay in Marley’s house and document his life.

“My son considered himself a Rasta,” she said. “My two-year-old knew every cut on every reggae album that had ever been released in America. There is a picture of Bob laughing at my son and he’s got his little knit cap on – so sweet. He’s 37 now and he’s got that on his wall.”

Hanging out with Marley in the 70s, cannabis came as part of the package.

Gottlieb-Walker said: “I don’t consider herb a drug. Herb is a sacrament, it’s a gift from God. It was always there and it was part of it. We smoked with Bob. It was just periodically, from time to time.

“When we went back to LA in 76, he posed with the High Times cover [the iconic shot of Marley sat behind a large pile of cannabis]. That was one of the few times he really enjoyed posing – he had lots of herb piled on the table. We were in West Hollywood, just down the block from a police station. It wasn’t an unusual amount for Bob – it was just an unusual amount for me to see.”

o Bob Marley And The Golden Age of Reggae runs from April 7 to May 15 at Proud Camden, Chalk Farm Road. Limited edition prints are for sale. Kim Gottlieb-Walker’s photographic book Bob Marley And The Golden Age of Reggae is for sale at the gallery.