A taste of Jamaica in Victoria

Photographer Lee Jaffe shows unseen side of Bob Marley and friends

Photographer, artist and writer Lee Jaffe, brought his original photo exhibit to Victoria Oct. 11.

By Teoni Spathelfer

A week after a rare photo exhibit hit Victoria, fans of Bob Marley and Jamaican culture are still basking in the afterglow.

Candid black and white and sepia photos of reggae legends Marley and Peter Tosh made up the bulk of the show, Lee Jaffe – an original photographic exhibit, that took place at Odd Fellows Hall Oct. 11.

At the core of the exhibit were photographs taken between 1973 and ’75 by the photographer, artist and writer.

Jaffe met Marley in New York and became instant friends with the legend. Later when he joined Marley for a two-week-long visit in Jamaica, it turned into a five-year adventure of friendship and art. Jaffe, floundering in life at the time, claims Marley helped him realize the importance of exercise, organic food and looking after yourself physically and spiritually.

Each photo had a story behind it and offered glimpses of the friendship among Jaffe, Marley and Tosh, combined with vignettes of Jamaican social and political history. All pieces featured custom and handcrafted frames, made on Salt Spring Island and designed to compliment the theme of the photo.

In what may be the only photo in existence of Bob reading the bible, the frame subtly recreates a cross. Another depicts Tosh singing Marley’s iconic song of black oppression 400 Years in the old slave quarters of Marley’s home in a posh Kingston neighbourhood. The historic shack was adopted as a rehearsal space for Marley and The Wailers.

The Jackson 5 also made its way into the exhibit, with photos taken when they performed in Jamaica. One shows a young Michael Jackson sporting a huge afro in the Jamaican sun.

This writer’s fave was a close up of Marley in a seedy hotel room on his first North American tour. In it, his dreads are short and spiky. From the beginning of his musical journey he spread ideas of respecting one another and embracing all races of our human family, hence his One Love philosophy. I couldn’t help but think as his dreads grew longer, his internal responsibility to make the world a better place also seemed to grow.

Among Jaffe’s favourite memories are Marley driving the band on back road adventures to remote island spots, to places that nourished the soul and provided many amazing photo ops.

Jaffe later produced Tosh’s Legalize It album with start up funding from Marley. The cover photo was a Jaffe concept that saw Tosh sitting in a field of marijuana, an image most North Americans were not familiar with at the time as the crop wasn’t common in such large amounts. It was a shot the record label claimed to have originally lost, leaving Jaffe to provide his back up material. Oddly enough many years later, the same recording label contacted Jaffe asking if they could use his original photos as they had been found.

Jaffe also shares a friendship with Marley’s offspring. He has always known Marley’s older children Cedella and Ziggy, but recently met Stephen while on tour in France. Jaffe, nervous to meet the accomplished young musician, was relieved when Stephen instantly recognized him and a deep connection was born.

Jaffe performed with Stephen at a handful of concerts, in what he calls an emotional experience to share the stage with another of Marley’s children. Out of the Marley clan, Jaffe feels Stephen reminds him the most of his famous father.

Just when Reggae and music history aficionado’s thought they knew all things Marley, Jaffe arrives with his rare photo exhibit and adds a whole new vibrant chapter to discover.

If you missed this amazing exhibit you can view some of the photos at www.leejaffe.com.

In each city Jaffe visits, he partners with non-profit organizations that receive proceeds from the door and from any food or liquor sales. While in Victoria one of his partners was The Church of Reggae-Yoga, a group that provides yoga classes along side reggae music. The Church has also begun bringing their melodic yoga to underprivileged youth in our area. For more info on this dynamic form of yoga look for them on Facebook.


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