Photograph and illustrations used under permission
Jerry Prochnicky shares insights into his life as a Doors historian and discusses the inspiration behind his latest book “Let Them Photograph Your Soul: A Visual Biography of Jim Morrison”
An interview with author Jerry Prochnicky
Jerry Prochnicky is renowned for his contributions to the literature surrounding iconic rock figures. In 1991, he co-authored “Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison,” a highly regarded biography that earned acclaim for its objectivity and thoroughness, as noted by The New York Times. Collaborating with Ralph Hulett, he also co-wrote “Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight with Led Zeppelin” and “Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times: A Visual Biography of the Ultimate Band.” Since the Doors’ inception in 1967, Prochnicky has dedicated decades to researching their history. His extensive knowledge culminated in the publication of “Let Them Photograph Your Soul: A Visual Biography of Jim Morrison.” This book stands out in the plethora of publications about the band, by offering a unique perspective through a compilation of rare and previously unseen photographs.
In this interview with Pop Expresso, Jerry Prochnicky shares insights into his life as a Doors historian and discusses the inspiration behind his latest book.
David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at email@example.com
You have been a long time fan and historian of The Doors, and co-authored one of the most popular books published about Jim Morrison, the 1991 “Break On Through.” What inspired you now to make this illustrated biography, specifically featuring a selection of rare and seldom seen photos of Morrison and The Doors unlike other many photography books about the band?
My employer went out of business in April 2015. I knew I had one more Jim Morrison / Doors book in me. A live edition to my Morrison biography, Break On Through. But this one to be a visual biography book of mostly new photos, tracking Morrison’s life from beginning to the end and beyond. So, it’s been an 8 1/2 year journey from then to now. I had my share of rejections / no replies, but kept pushin’ forward ; it only takes one publisher to make it happen. And for me, it was Fred Baggen at Aldus Boek Compagnie, who believed in me and the book.
Can you share some insights into your research process to complete this book?
I have “lived” with many of these photos for many years now, from the Break On Through days. So, the research process was expanded to include more photos than text. For me, the photos are moving not only for what they show, but for what they mean. And each photo means something to me, as does also each caption, each story.
Were there any challenges or unique experiences you encountered while seeking out information or people connected to Morrison for your book?
The photo selection for Break On Through was dealing with the photographers. With this book, Let Them Photograph Your Soul, a number of the over 50 photographers on board, have passed away. So, I had to deal with the sons, daughters, wives, or business partners of the departed photographers. And to have their photos in the book, is my little tribute to them. They may be gone, but their photos live on!
How do you think Jim Morrison’s writing, both in music and poetry, influenced the overall ethos of The Doors and the counterculture of the 1960s?
Morrison’s lyrics revealed him as a truth seeker and The Doors were a band of their time, built perfectly around his style. And the genius of The Doors was to make rock music around Morrison’s poetry. There’s an identity about The Doors music. And Morrison himself became an emblem of youthful desire and demons.
In your exploration of Morrison’s life, were there any surprising or lesser-known aspects that you uncovered throughout the years that you’ve found particularly fascinating?
Edgar Bernstein’s two page Miami concert recollection is very interesting and revealing, with my 5 picks of his photos taken that night.
The Doors’ music and Morrison’s lyrics often carry deep and poetic meanings. Was there a purpose to try to translate them into this specific selection of photos or in the book’s layout?
Doors music and Morrison’s lyrics add an exclamation point to the photos !
Morrison’s legacy is an ongoing, living record rather than a moment in history frozen forever in the past.
Given the passage of time and evolving perspectives on the 1960s and early 1970s, how do you see Jim Morrison’s legacy standing in today’s cultural landscape and how did his persona and artistic contributions shape the landscape of rock music during that era and continue to influence artists today?
Morrison’s legacy is an ongoing, living record rather than a moment in history frozen forever in the past. These photos bring him back to life. And may you look at Jim Morrison from the past, and see him in a new way for the present.
How did your passion for The Doors start?
I was just starting college, and really didn’t know who or what I wanted to be, but The Doors music moved me and in Morrison’s lyrics, I found sanctuary. He spoke to me in ways that my parents, teachers, religion, could not / did not. So, I started collecting anything and everything on Jim Morrison, especially the printed word, to find out more about him. I was a fan in the beginning, then became a student. With the book’s release, I think I earned my degree.
You also co-authored books about Led Zeppelin, is there a different level of passion you have for both these iconic and legendary bands and are there any other artists or bands you would like to write about?
My good friend, Ralph Hulett, was a big Zeppelin fan, so I told him I’d help to get a book out on them. It’s a fun and informative read and the photo selection is nice. I like Zeppelin too, not as much for an individual member of the band, but for the music. Led Zeppelin’s debut album and second one is rated H for Heavy !
I was a fan in the beginning, then became a student. With the book’s release, I think I earned my degree
Can you tell us a bit about your life and what other projects you have in hand for the future?
No other projects planned for the future. Everybody had gone out and gotten married and had careers and 2 children, and I have my book. My mission to Jim Morrison is finished.
Do you have a favorite Doors song and album?
Favorite Doors song is “Break On Through.” For me, it is the true essence of the Doors ; mentally, physically, and spiritually. Favorite album is their debut album. The front record cover, I based the front book cover to. (Plus brown is my favorite color).
Additionally, you were crucial to Jim Morrison’s 2010 posthumous pardon from Florida Governor Charlie Crist. As a historian of Jim Morrison and The Doors, is that the moment you are most proud of?
While listening to the Doors, “Been Down So Long” song one night way back when, the verse ; Now, why don’t one of you people, C’mon and set me free, left a strong impression on my mind. I thought, I could be one of those people to set him free. Morrison was going to fight the sentence, until it was wiped clean off the records, because he felt he did nothing wrong at the Miami concert, but died when it was on appeal. So, it was my original idea, passed on to Kerry Humpherys, Editor and Chief / The Doors Collectors Magazine, for the fans to petition the Governor of Florida. Kerry Humpherys took the ball and ran with it for 17 years, and obtained over one million online petition signatures, and he should be commended. So, on December 9, 2010, then Governor Charlie Crist, granted a pardon to Jim Morrison.
Let Them Photograph Your Soul can be pre-ordered exclusively in the webshop of www.let-them-photograph-your-soul.com (which is a subsidiary of publisher Aldus Boek Compagnie). Aldus Boek Compagnie is run by long-time Doors connaisseur Fred Baggen, from The Netherlands, who wrote The Doors. Een vuistvol stilte in 2018 and Stronger Than Dirt in 2021, and published Vince Treanor’s autobiography Behind The Doors.
This is THE book that Doors fans have been waiting for. It is not a greatest hits photobook, but a stunning visual biography of mostly new photos,
tracking Jim Morrison’s life from beginning to the end and beyond, by an author who has been a Morrison / Doors student since 1967.
And the captions and stories complement the images nicely. Over 50 photographers are on board, 140+ photos, softcover, 7×10 size, 224 pp.
The book is for old fans who remember, and new ones who will discover the real Jim Morrison. Seeing is believing . . .
Above: one of the photos included in Let Them Photograph Your Soul
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Watch The Doors playing “Light My Fire” live at The Hollywood Bowl
Listen to the 1978 album “An American Prayer” by Jim Morrison and The Doors
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