Close your eyes and envision the term “Rock ‘n Roll Photographer.” What’s the first image that comes to mind? A grizzled, tat-covered toughie who swears like a sailor? Some arrogant seen-it-all cynic with ego to spare?
Nonsense. For proof, meet Jini Dellaccio, whose under-appreciated genius behind a camera is eclipsed only by her classy kindness of spirit. Dellaccio’s Hasselblad lens forever immortalized those bands and musicians whose songs shaped the Northwest’s cultural landscape during the sixties and beyond. But the photographs wouldn’t be nearly as honest, natural, and compelling were it not for the matronly affection she bestowed upon her beloved subjects.
You’ve likely seen her work: Mick Jagger caught gazing wearily from the stage during the tail end of a grueling tour. A towering Neil Young staring down through the dangling fringes of a leather jacket. The no-frills, black and white Sonics shot slathered across the band’s “Boom” album cover. Whether they were international acts with tour stops in Seattle, or hungry young regional bands, Dellaccio’s lens re-invented them all with her fresh, spontaneous style.
“Her Aim is True,” Karen Whitehead’s thoughtful, engaging documentary, both acknowledges Dellaccio’s visual contributions to rock history and embraces her refreshingly positive spirit. During many photo shoots, the motherly image-maker would invite bands to lunch at her Gig Harbor home, using terms of endearment like “you lovely boys.” She hosted photo sessions not from stuffy studios, but from her backyard. Clients were lensed not during cheesy poses, but while climbing trees and lounging about in the mist and rain. Wearing velvet berets, gold medallion, and a perpetual smile, Dellaccio is the antithesis of doomy rock debauchery.
“Her Aim is True” follows Dellaccio’s initial forays into rock with bands like The Sonics and The Wailers, through more contemporary shoots with The Moondoggies. There’s a huge amount of memorabilia on hand, with Seattle authorities like promoter Pat O’Day recounting the formative history of Northwest rock. Whitehead also offers a detailed arc of the celebrated photog’s personal life, from her depression-era upbringing in Indiana through her current residence in Northwest Washington.
But ultimately, the film’s heart and soul rests with Dellaccio’s delightfully upbeat, remarkably optimistic presence. Her face grows long only when reflecting back on the overdose of a beloved musician friend, and the stroke-related death of Carl, her husband of 58 years. Captured during a recent photo shoot staged at the Crocodile Café in downtown Seattle, she’s seen warmly extending her hand to a young rocker, exclaiming, “You are a cutie!” And while mingling with fellow photographers at Seattle’s Experience Music Project in Seattle, her eyes and smile literally gleam with magic, carpe diem spirit.
We all know about rock ‘n roll’s dark side. But through “Her Aim Is True,” we’re reminded of the positive energy and vitality thriving within this culture of sound. Dellaccio’s photos capture the joyful side of rock, and her smile shines light upon its shadows.