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7 min readJul 3, 2023

Shooting Bob Marley and the Punk Pioneers

Renowned photographer, Dennis Morris, has left an indelible mark on the world of photography through his captivating images of iconic figures. In an exclusive interview, Morris shared his remarkable journey from humble beginnings to a celebrated artist, capturing the essence of musical legends.

English photographer Dennis Morris stood in front of his Sid Vicious portraits at an exhibition of his work on 6 August 2014.
Dennis Morris standing before his Sid Vicious portraits.

Photographer Dennis Morris has only vague memories of his life in Jamaica. He was born on the Caribbean island in 1960 but migrated to the United Kingdom at nearly five years old. The next time he returned to Jamaica, he was sixteen and taking photographs of the legendary Bob Marley by then. His passion for photography started in his early teens when he began to skip school to pursue his all-consuming hobby. Yet he had been taking pictures from around the age of nine. "I was really into photography," he told me over a double brandy.

A Fateful Encounter

Growing up in Hackney in the East End of London, Dennis became a choirboy at Saint Mark's Church of England. The vicar there was a very eccentric Englishman who envisioned the boys wearing Eton suits despite most coming from African and Caribbean backgrounds. Neither the church nor the boys could afford Eton suits, so the vicar placed an ad in The Times seeking a benefactor's support.

Donald Paterson, the inventor of photographic equipment known as Paterson Products, answered the ad. Having amassed a considerable fortune, he sought to contribute to society by purchasing suits for the boys and starting various afterschool clubs that positively impacted numerous lives. Most importantly, Paterson created a photography club which played a crucial role in young Dennis finding his passion. Noticing the boy's unrelenting interest in photography, Paterson took Dennis under his wing to teach him everything he knew.

The Power of Mentorship

“I wasn’t the only enthusiastic one,” Dennis recalls, “but I think he saw me as the obsessed one. He basically adopted me in some ways. I became a mystery to most white people due to knowing all about etiquette from him, but just as much of a mystery to black people for…

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Often found in far-flung places reading Walter Mosley with a rucksack on his back.