Just as rock’s most enduring moments occur when the music veers into the unexpected, the legacy of improbable rock photographer Jini Dellaccio is indelibly woven into the arts culture of the Pacific Northwest.
Already middle-aged and entirely self-taught when she fixed her camera on the burgeoning Seattle music scene in the early ’60s, Dellaccio became a consistent chronicler, capturing both the area’s rising ambassadors — like The Sonics, The Wailers, The Daily Flash and Merrilee Rush — and passers by including The Rolling Stones, The Who and Neil Young.
That Dellaccio largely slipped under the greater pop culture lens is now being corrected with Her Aim Is True, a documentary by Karen Whitehead, executive-produced by Eddie Vedder, and filmed just a few years before Dellaccio died this July at age 97. The film is winding through the festival circuit, including next week’s Doc’n’Roll fest in London, and is available in the States via video on-demand.
The reality that her subjects were 20 years younger and often living a lifestyle apart was no deterrent to the unconventional Dellaccio. She was as comfortable pressed against the stage shooting The Who during their first North American tour in 1967 as she was outdoors in Gig Harbor for a portrait session with one of her beloved local bands. As she says in the film, “I loved the music, but I loved the people more.”
In fact, Dellaccio and the area’s new rock architects were all coming up together. Where the artists were cultivating a distinct growling garage sound, Dellaccio was layering a distinct visual style over their emerging identity—humid yet cosmopolitan, often enhanced by the region’s natural beauty.
“My first impression of Jini, besides being such a pleasant person, was that she was different from other photographer’s in that she took shots from angles that other photographers did not use,” says the Sonics’ Larry Parypa. “She was also tuned into our moods at the time so was able capture that in film.”
The sophistication of her photographs quickly became signature — and in demand. Among Dellaccio’s best-known works is a photo of Neil Young taken after she asked him to don a fringed leather jacket and stand on the roof looking down at her like a bird. Her portraits also became the covers for two Wailers albums and three Sonics albums, including the iconic “Boom.’
“I was so fascinated with how she just kept moving, and how she never allowed the expectations of the time and conformity to stop her,” Whitehead tells Billboard. “She just had this quality where she really engages with you — it’s very deep.”
An edited version of this article first appeared in the Sept. 27th issue of Billboard.