Jini Dellaccio, Photographer who captured Northwest rock scene, dies at 97
Jini Dellaccio, whose distinctive photographs documented the Pacific Northwest music scene of the 1960s, and who was the subject of the 2013 documentary “Her Aim Is True,” died Thursday (July 3) of undisclosed causes at a Seattle hospice facility. She was 97.
Karen Whitehead, director of “Her Aim Is True,” which had its world premiere at this past year’s Seattle International Film Festival, described Mrs. Dellaccio as a “real trailblazer.” Not only was the self-taught photographer a female in a male-dominated profession, she didn’t even begin shooting rock bands until she was in her mid-40s.
It was a time when the Northwest music scene was developing its sense of identity, and Mrs. Dellaccio gave the burgeoning scene a visual style. Her memorable black-and-white shot for the cover of the Sonics’ 1966 album “Boom” conveys a sense of American cool that rivaled anything seen on Swinging London’s Carnaby Street. She also drew on the natural picturesque qualities of the region, frequently photographing bands in outdoor settings; despite its title, her cover picture for the Wailers’ 1966 album, “Out of Our Tree,” showed the band most decidedly in a tree, grinning down at the photographer.
Mrs. Dellaccio was born Jini Duckworth on Jan. 31, 1917, in rural Indiana. Her first love was music, and it was while playing saxophone in an all-female swing band during World War II that she met her future husband, Carl Dellaccio. The couple married in 1946 and lived in Chicago, where she attended the Art Institute of Chicago, studying painting.
She initially took up photography as a means of documenting her work as a painter but quickly discovered she had a greater affinity for the camera.
When the couple moved to Long Beach, Calif., in 1953, Mrs. Dellaccio began working as a freelance fashion photographer.
The couple moved to Gig Harbor, Pierce County, in 1961. An exhibition of Mrs. Dellaccio’s work at the Tacoma Art Museum in 1962 attracted local attention; a few years later, she was asked to shoot the cover of the 1965 album “Wailers, Wailers Everywhere,” which introduced her photography to the rock community. Photo shoots with the Sonics, Merilee Rush, and the Daily Flash, among others, quickly followed.
“We just loved her photography,” Rush said. “The greatest photographers that I’ve had have been fashion photographers, and she had that background. She did more than just shoot a picture of you. She was very inventive with what she had.”
Her field of subjects broadened when Seattle DJ/promoter Pat O’Day gave her carte blanche to shoot rock shows at what was then called the Coliseum (now KeyArena), enabling her to add photos of the Beach Boys, the Who, the Rolling Stones and other top rock acts to her portfolio. One of her best-known images is a striking 1967 shot of Neil Young, looking down through his raised arms, framed by the long fringe on the arms of his leather jacket. Young struck the pose when Dellaccio asked him to climb onto the roof of his home and “fly like a bird,” as she explained in a 2009 Seattle Times profile.
In the ’70s, Mrs. Dellaccio’s focus changed from rock musicians to architectural photography. When her husband retired, the couple moved to Sequim, Clallam County, and then to Arizona. Dellaccio returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, after her husband’s death in 2003, which kicked off renewed interest in her work. The next few years saw regular exhibits of her photos in area galleries, as well as the release of “Her Aim is True,” which further raised her profile.
“While Jini’s aesthetic was rooted in the midcentury tradition of the ‘Northwest School,’ the subjects of her photographs made her work remarkable,” said Larry Reid, the veteran Northwest visual and performing arts activist, who wrote an essay for Mrs. Dellaccio’s photo book, “Rock and Roll: Jini Dellaccio.” “The primitive proto-punk garage rock emerging from blue collar communities around Tacoma was marginalized. We’re lucky that Dellaccio was there to document that important movement.”
Mrs. Dellaccio is survived by two grandsons, Joe and Jan Young; four great-grandchildren, Andy, Kendall and Sam Young and Jessica Green; one great-great-grandson, Jameson Green; and three nieces, Leslie Granger, Jennifer Duckworth and Vicki Seaton.
No public memorial has yet been announced. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Artist Trust, Carl & Jini Dellaccio Scholarship Fund, 1835 12th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122.
Gillian G. Gaar: email@example.com