In thinking about the life of photographer Jini Dellaccio, I am reminded of the difference between the rebellious and the independent spirit. The former is done in reaction to perceived or real oppression; the latter more a drive to always live by and express one's uniqueness of heart and mind. Neither is an easy path to take in life. The rebel, indeed, always needs a cause, something to rail against or overcome, and there is enough inequity and injustice in the world to always provide a giant to topple. The independent has no such external fuel; he or she must have the sustained internal drive to remain true to self, while often facing criticism or roadblocks. The independent must at times walk alone, yet is richer for it.

Jini Dellaccio is a delightful and inspiring example of the independent spirit. Born in 1917 in Indiana, Jini had the good fortune to come from a family who strongly valued the arts, both visual and musical, unusual then for a home of modest income. She joined an all-girl swing band as a saxophonist in 1935, and made her living as a musician until she married husband (WWII vet and teacher) Carl in 1946. The evening hours and travel of a musician's life were not best-suited for the Dellaccio's new union, so Jini instead began to study visual arts, eventually teaching art and selling hand-painted scarves to local boutiques.

And then, for the first time, Jini picked up a camera, figured out how to use it on her own, and fate intervened. A fashion model who needed shots for her portfolio asked if Jini could take them. Although inexperienced, Jini decided to give it a try, and the results from that first attempt led to more word-of-mouth work, and Jini began yet another successful career in fashion and commercial photography. As Carl's career led them from the Midwest to California to Washington State, Jini not only adapted to her new surroundings, but kept open to new opportunities and avenues to grow as an artist.

And in 1964, in her mid-40s, Jini Dellaccio fell head-over-heels in love with the nastiest, grittiest, grooviest music going -- the garage punk scene in the Pacific Northwest. She was asked to shoot an album cover for Tacoma's Wailers -- again, something she had never done before, but was willing to try -- and produced the images that led to years of photographing some of the biggest and best in rock n' roll: the Sonics, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and many, many more, often in live performance. Her images are all marked by a fine artistic eye, an innate feel for line, movement, and lighting, and a  deep understanding of her subjects. They are some of the best rock n' roll images ever.

In the 1980s, when Carl Dellaccio suffered a devastating stroke, Jini put down her camera to care for him full-time, and took no photographs for 15 years. After his death and at almost 90 years of age, she taught herself how to use a digital camera, and began to shoot again -- wildlife, scenes outside her home, everyday things. Jini recently celebrated her 94th birthday.

It was a little over a year ago when I attended a panel discussion at Seattle's Experience Music Project museum kicking off the "Taking Aim: Unforgettable Photographs of Rock n' Roll" exhibit, curated by musician and photographer Graham Nash (whose comment on my review, along with rock photog Chris Walter's, lives proudly on the sidebar of this blog!). It was an amazing and enlightening experience -- I truly felt honored to be there amongst so many brilliant photographers. And once again, fortune is with me because yesterday I went to Seattle's Northwest Film Forum to attend a short preview of an independent film about Jini Dellaccio's life, currently in production. Jini was there, along with British documentary director Karen Whitehead and several members of the production team. Here's the film pitch to backers (which are folks like me and you, by the way) and some photos I took of the day.

Jini Dellaccio Documentary Tour and Appeal from Karen Whitehead on Vimeo.

What is so special about Jini and her independent spirit is very visible when you see her in person or on film. Her relaxed and refined manner is charmingly complemented by a witty, mischievous sparkle in her blue eyes and genuine enthusiasm for so many things. Intelligent, gracious, and fun, generous with her talents and supportive of others', and radiant at all ages, she is exactly the kind of woman I would hope my daughter might become someday, and a direct and meaningful inspiration to me personally as I navigate my own (much more modest) rock n' roll life. In short, Jini rocks.

This film (which looks just gorgeous so far) needs significant financial help in order to finish production and begin the indie process of film fests and distribution. I think Jini's story is important, and I hope you do, too. Please consider making a donation towards the funding of the film so it can be seen by as many people as possible! Any amount is helpful. Click here to find out more.

Long live the beautiful independent.

(Jini Dellaccio, self portrait)