For years, post photographer James Fortune had the good fortune of sitting front row, mingling backstage and capturing the images of some of the world’s greatest rock stars.
Last month, Fortune’s efforts were duly recognized as several of his images became part of the permanent collection of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Shelby Morrison, an exhibition assistant with museum, said seven photos were accepted May 23 into the Cleveland, Ohio, institution.
They include iconic images of Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant, The Doors’ Jim Morrison and former Beatle Paul McCartney and wife, Linda.
Morrison said it is too early to know how the photographs will be exhibited.
Fortune, a 59-year-old employee with the Directorate of Information Management’s photo branch, is a Navy veteran and 22-year Fort Lee civilian employee. He said he feels good that his photographs will grace the exhibit walls of the Hall of Fame.
“I think it’s great,” said Fortune. “It’s where (the photos) they should be, but for me it’s just part of the process of getting my work out there.”
Fortune has photographed everybody from Donna Summer and Iggy Pop to Elton John and the Jackson Five.
His body of work is more than 21,000 images spanning 13 years, and his images have graced the covers of record albums and the pages of books.
It has been a struggle, however, to get his photographs the recognition he said they truly deserve.
“From 2001 to 2005, I contacted 55 book publishers and was turned down,” he said.
Fortune has since then scaled back his effort. He has catalogued the many images, is in the process of digitizing them and has forged a partnership with one company that sells art posters and another that markets the work to galleries.
One of his images, probably the most famous of them all, features Plant holding a white dove during a concert. He said the image in poster form has sold more than 100,000 copies.
Fortune said marketing his work is a way of sharing his experiences with people because each image represents an unforgettable moment in time.
One such moment was an evening in 1975, when he got intimately acquainted with the McCarthys. Paul and Linda were being interviewed by a Los Angeles Times reporter at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Fortune was hired as the photographer.
He spent about two hours initially shooting generic shots of the couple. He was ready to pack up and leave when Paul stopped him.
“He said, ‘Hey, James, I’d like you to take some more pictures of me,’” recalled Fortune. “‘Come back later today.’”
Fortune said that evening sticks out in his mind because he wound up shooting the McCarthy’s four times that week in what were considered intimate for the time.
“They were so gracious and so normal,” he recalled. “I sat on the grass with them in front of their bungalow and had great conversation with them while clicking away.”
When Fortune looks back on his storied career, he said he was successful because he was persistent, had a way with people and knew his camera.
“It was just knowing your equipment,” he said, “and just being able to communicate with people, to get across to them what you needed them to know.”
Fortune began a serious pursuit of photography in 1967 while a college student in Los Angeles. His big break came when he used his position as a photo editor to solicit record companies for free albums.
One company, Elektra records, called him back and asked him to photograph a new band called The Doors.
The rest is history.
And good fortune.