If you’re a Doors fan you’ve seen the pictures of Bobby Klein, the first official photographer of The Doors. His most famous pictures of The Doors are of them “handling” the sections of the billboard Jac Holzman put up for the band on Sunset Boulevard, or perhaps the shot on Venice Beach where Morrison has a noticeable erection.
There are other photographs you’ll recognize, like The Doors at the Bronson Caves and on Venice Beach. What makes Klein’s site unique is with almost each picture there’s an audio clip of Klein telling the story around the picture. For the Sunset Boulevard billboard shots, Klein says the hardest part was getting the band up at 7 in the morning for the photo shoot. Klein also relates the story around the Venice Beach picture of the band and how Morrison snuck off behind a tree and came back and Klein never noticed the erection until he developed the pictures. And a picture of Jim and Pam where Klein relates the story of when he lived behind Jim and Pam on Laurel Canyon and one morning Pam is pounding on his door because Jim had set fire to the closet. This tale, of course, was later illustrated in the Oliver Stone movie “The Doors”.
Like many photographers of his time, Klein wasn’t a professional. He took pictures, put together a portfolio and started taking it around to record companies until he convinced an art director to hire him. Once his career had started, he would take pictures of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Dennis Hopper, Igor Stravinsky, and Steve Martin. The pictures for Steve Martin would later find their way into Martin’s book “Cruel Shoes”.
Rhino Records has a site set up for Bobby Klein’s fine art photographs. All the pictures on the site are for sale, and they are quite pricey for the average fan, but you can look at them and listen to Klein’s stories. He has a lilting voice and an open-minded outlook that is clearly of the 60’s, and that let him experiment and take pictures that fans are still seeking out today.
Originally published November 19, 2009.