Art | The Jimi Hendrix Experience – suitably psychedelic photographs

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Image: Gered Mankowitz

In 1967, in the heady throes of rock and roll, photographer Gered Mankowitz took pictures of Jimi Hendrix. Captured just three years before the musician’s untimely death, the photographs represent the vibrancy of Hendrix’s momentous yet short-lived career. It is hindsight that gives this exhibition a tragic element: the moments fixed within the frames portray the lifestyle which both consigned Jimi Hendrix to legend and which ultimately brought about his death.

But this sadness is not necessarily intended. Above all, the photographs introduce us to a musician, music and culture that was bold, passionate and powerful. Originally shot on black and white film, Mankowitz adds deep colours to some of the images, which illuminate the man behind the headlines as a cultural monarch; for decades, this King of Music has maintained his unwavering position at the forefront of pop culture.

On other frames, Mankowitz uses metallic inks and softer colours that represent the psychedelic sounds characteristic of Hendrix’s music. Where the original edit has remained intact, Hendrix’s personality comes across most vividly. In his signature velvet cape, he is captured laughing, smoking, or gazing fixedly towards us, his audience. Mankowitz shot to stardom in the 1960s after years spent documenting The Rolling Stones. In the 50 years since then, the British photographer has worked with a number of musicians, including Kate Bush and Slade. Many of his portraits now feature in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

As a venue, the White Cloth Gallery is ideal for such a striking exhibition. Located in the city centre, it provides a well-lit and suitably urban space for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the gallery next door to the one housing Mankowitz’s work, visitors can also revel in a collection of photographs by Slim Aarons, the American photograph made famous for his images of celebrities and US high society in the 20th century.

Rosie Collington

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