Unlikely rock ‘n’ roll photographer Jini Dellaccio visualized punk before it had a name, captured grunge before the hype and embodied indie before it was cool
In the early 1960s, rock ‘n’ roll was supposed to be for kids. While the Beatles were premiering A Hard Day’s Night, a raucous, dangerous sound was emerging in the northwest United States in the working class towns around Seattle. Youngsters were doing a dance called the Witch and garage bands were producing their own records with songs about drinking strychnine for kicks. Bands like The Wailers and The Sonics were punk before there was a name for it. And in the middle of the crowd, a 48-year-old self-taught photographer named Jini Dellaccio had finally found her subject. A shy, unassuming farm girl from Indiana, Jini got the rockers to be themselves, while being old enough to be their mother. Through her lens, these garage bands, dismissed by other adults, saw for the first time that what they were doing could truly be art.
In many ways, Jini’s unquenchable need to realize a new form of photography ran parallel with the do-it-yourself attitude of the music bands she documented. Shot entirely on location in the Pacific Northwest, her aim is true goes behind Jini’s lens to trace the roots of Jini’s avant-garde artistry and the unlikely friendships she formed. With charm and candor, Jini recalls her Depression era childhood, her days traveling on the road in all-girl jazz bands, and the critical influence of her mother, who made music as important as meals.
The film delves into Jini’s fifty year old archive and features commentary on her unheralded legacy by distinguished rock photographers as well as musicians from then and now. her aim is true reveals how Jini’s unusual backyard photo shoots led to an unprecedented session with music legend Neil Young at his Laurel Canyon home, and candid live performance shots of bands like The Who (on their first US tour), The Rolling Stones, Mitch Ryder and the Mamas and Papas.
But at the heart of the film is a legacy lost and found—as we trace Jini’s ingenuity, spirit and style through the story of participants in a gritty music subculture that, like Jini, would set the bar for their descendants in decades to come.
Her Aim Is True is coming soon! Film Festival screenings will be announced in spring 2013. For updated screenings schedule, check back here.
Go Behind the Scenes at cargocollective.com/dellacciofilm
When I first met Jini (she was 92 at the time), I was immediately intrigued by her vivacious spirit and cool stories. It wasn’t until I started digging around the Pacific Northwest music scene that I realized I had been in the presence of a very unusual woman. With her Hasselblad camera in hand, Jini changed the formula, and brought a new sensibility to rock band photo shoots while barely any other women photographers had professional careers, let alone ones in rock ‘n’ roll.
Curiosity and indignation fuelled my determination to make this film. Curiosity – how did this elegant, unassuming woman wind up spending her middle age documenting garage rockers? Indignation – why had Jini’s artistic ingenuity been tucked away on the sidelines of our cultural history? But I wanted to craft something much more than a retrospective about a reclusive artist. Instead, I envisioned a fun, engaging journey around Jini’s ‘ageless’ artistry. The film is meticulously crafted around a series of encounters that explore Jini’s unique relationship with the bands and the strong connection between their role as innovators in music and Jini’s own independent spirit.
The film’s narrative takes its cue from Jini’s intense passion for her art, her creative process and influences. Through the telling of this story, I set out to share something that speaks to all of us about pursuing our dreams and creativity. I am hoping her aim is true will have universal appeal, with a tone that is at once intimate, inspiring and nostalgic.
- Karen Whitehead
Washington DC-based British filmmaker and former BBC producer Karen Whitehead is making her indie doc directorial debut with this film, which receives fiscal sponsorship from Northwest Film Forum. Her Seattle-based crew includes renowned filmmaker and cinematographers John Jeffcoat (Outsourced) and Ryan McMackin. Art direction is by Gabe Kean, from the multi-award winning design studio Belle & Wissell. The film is edited by Kelli Boyd and produced in association with 18th Street Films, a subsidiary of Story House Media. Executive producers are C.Karim Chrobog and Carsten Oblaender.