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More than 10 years ago, photographer Jim Marshall hired Amelia Davis as his assistant knowing she had multiple sclerosis (MS). At the time, he was already well established as one of the foremost photographers in America, specializing in portraits of musicians and entertainers. His photos of Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Woodstock (where he was the only photographer allowed backstage), and the youth culture of the 1960s have become iconic images of that era. He demanded total access to his subjects, living with them 24-7 and capturing their personalities with unprecedented intimacy.
Since hiring Davis, Marshall has also become a passionate advocate for people living with MS. “Every other day she gives herself a shot. I can't imagine having to do that.”
With his help, a group of incredibly talented photographers come together every year and donate their photographs to help raise money and awareness for people living with the disease. Rock for MS, which was conceived by Davis and inspired by Marshall, takes place in three cities each year: New York, Los Angeles, and Marshall's home town of San Francisco. “I support her totally,” says Marshall, “and I don't support a lot of charities because I don't believe in a lot of them.”
The LA event will take place on July 23, 2008, at the Key Club in West Hollywood. All proceeds go directly to supporting MSFriends, a small non-profit that provides a 24/7 telephone helpline for people living with the disease. Go to msfriends.org for more information; on the site, you can also watch a video of Marshall talking about his involvement with Rock for MS that showcases some of the photographs that have defined American culture.