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Local Photographer Goes Behind Famous Photographs

Evening Edition

Above: San Diego photographer Tim Mantoani talks about his 6-year project making portraits of photographers and their iconic images.

Photographer Jim Marshall and his famous photograph of Johnny Cash. This image is part of Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs Project."
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Above: Photographer Jim Marshall and his famous photograph of Johnny Cash. This image is part of Tim Mantoani's "Behind Photographs Project."

We all know that photograph of Johnny Cash flipping off the camera, guitar slung to the side, embodying cool and rebellion so perfectly.

Because of local photographer Tim Mantoani, we now see Jim Marshall, the rock photographer who froze that moment in time.

Marshall is featured in Mantoani's "Behind Photographs" project, which began six years ago as a labor of love. Mantoani set out to document the photographers who've influenced the craft of photography and the greater culture through their work.

Mantoani makes a portrait of each of photog holding a famous image they took (they choose the image). For example, there's one of photojournalist Steve McCurry holding an image of the green-eyed Afghan girl that so famously graced the cover of National Geographic Magazine.

The "Behind Photographs" series is shot with a 20x24 Polaroid camera - a rare, heavy and expensive camera that Mantoani fell in love with. Today, the Polaroid company is gone and there is a limited supply of film. Each exposure Mantoani makes costs him $200. Some of the photographers he's documented have already passed away, making the archival aspect of this project even more culturally valuable.

There's a beautiful coffee table book about the project that you can find here.

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