Robert Johnson - a third photo?

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Charlie O.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Nov 2017, 05:22

Diamond Dog wrote:So it was Shines. Doesn't mean it was Johnson.

True.

But Shines indisputably traveled and performed with Johnson. Shines remembered having a picture taken with Johnson which appeared in at least one newspaper.

And here's what looks like a publicity photo of Shines when he was about that age, posing with someone who rather closely resembles Johnson.

And that's without dragging the forensics into it.

Are the odds still at "about 1 in 9.8 million"?
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 05:43

That's the number of African Americans in the US in the 1940 census.

In my mind, that's the odds that that's Robert Johnson in the photo, Charlie!
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Nov 2017, 06:01

Do we have any stats on the number of African-Americans around that time who played guitar, had the face and hands of Robert Johnson, and performed with Johnny Shines? I reckon that would have to be a much lower number. :lol:
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 06:21

If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?

Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Nov 2017, 06:24

Diamond Dog wrote:If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?

As noted before, he isn't playing it, or even pretending to play it. It's a prop, and he's just holding it for the photograph (see my post on the first page).


Diamond Dog wrote:Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?

You would think. But look how long it took for those other two photos to turn up!
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Tactful Cactus » 14 Nov 2017, 07:47

He has a sort of swollen cheekbone in both photos. If it is proven to be Shines then I would say it has to be Johnson. Because they were pals and the resemblance is uncanny. I don't think it looks like Shines though. The guy has very soft features, he looks a bit like Jamie Foxx and Shines doesn't.

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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby The Modernist » 14 Nov 2017, 08:04

Tactful Cactus wrote:He has a sort of swollen cheekbone in both photos. If it is proven to be Shines then I would say it has to be Johnson. Because they were pals and the resemblance is uncanny. I don't think it looks like Shines though. The guy has very soft features, he looks a bit like Jamie Foxx and Shines doesn't.


You're comparing a young Shines with a guy in late middle age though. I can see a strong resemblance in the features.
I'd say the weight of evidence is stronger on this being authentic than being fake.

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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby The Modernist » 14 Nov 2017, 08:08

Diamond Dog wrote:
Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?


There have been plenty of instances of paintings turning up after hundreds of years, it's not so far fetched.

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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 08:57

The Modernist wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:
Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?


There have been plenty of instances of paintings turning up after hundreds of years, it's not so far fetched.


Yes, but they're normally spirited away in private collections. And let's be fair, there's a massive difference between a work of art from the 17th century and a photo from 1938 G.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 09:01

Diamond Dog wrote:If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?


Charlie O. wrote:As noted before, he isn't playing it, or even pretending to play it. It's a prop, and he's just holding it for the photograph (see my post on the first page).


Come on Charlie.... no right handed guitarist picks up a guitar (even a prop guitar) and poses left handed with it. It's completely alien to them. That's like a drummer sitting with his hi hat on the 'wrong' side for him, whilst being photographed.. it just wouldn't ever happen.


Diamond Dog wrote:Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?

Charlie O. wrote:You would think. But look how long it took for those other two photos to turn up!


That's a valid point - how long was it before the first two turned up?
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby trans-chigley express » 14 Nov 2017, 11:01

Diamond Dog wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?


Charlie O. wrote:As noted before, he isn't playing it, or even pretending to play it. It's a prop, and he's just holding it for the photograph (see my post on the first page).


Come on Charlie.... no right handed guitarist picks up a guitar (even a prop guitar) and poses left handed with it. It's completely alien to them. That's like a drummer sitting with his hi hat on the 'wrong' side for him, whilst being photographed.. it just wouldn't ever happen.

If the photographer knew the image would be reversed they may have asked Johnson to hold it left handed so it would look right in the final image.

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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Kinkhurt » 14 Nov 2017, 11:20

Diamond Dog wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?


Charlie O. wrote:As noted before, he isn't playing it, or even pretending to play it. It's a prop, and he's just holding it for the photograph (see my post on the first page).


Come on Charlie.... no right handed guitarist picks up a guitar (even a prop guitar) and poses left handed with it. It's completely alien to them. That's like a drummer sitting with his hi hat on the 'wrong' side for him, whilst being photographed.. it just wouldn't ever happen.


Diamond Dog wrote:Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?

Charlie O. wrote:You would think. But look how long it took for those other two photos to turn up!


That's a valid point - how long was it before the first two turned up?


It could also depend on how many photos were taken at the session vs how many survived and which ones were deemed usable and did the person selecting the pictures to print know much about guitars ?

The photographer could have been playing with the balance of the shot.

With 'Johnson' stood to that side and the guitar slung in his normal handed playing position would have thrown the shot out of balance, and in print the guitar would have most likely lost its head when cropped to fit newspaper column aspect ratio and lose its impact/clarity.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Nov 2017, 15:25

Diamond Dog wrote:Come on Charlie.... no right handed guitarist picks up a guitar (even a prop guitar) and poses left handed with it. It's completely alien to them. That's like a drummer sitting with his hi hat on the 'wrong' side for him, whilst being photographed.. it just wouldn't ever happen.

It would be alien to him IF he had to pretend to play it - which, as I say, he isn't doing in that photo. If it was just a photographer's prop, he could hold it any way the photographer asked him to.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby T. Berry Shuffle » 14 Nov 2017, 17:47

I don't have any unique authority to say it is or isn't Robert Johnson, obviously. But I have worked as a photo archivist and have had to do a considerable bit of subject identification in photographs. So I have a speck of professional background to work from. I once identified who I thought was a musical icon in an archived film but worked to authenticate that identification for months before bringing it to the public.

With that background, I personally, would be extremely hesitant to identify the individual holding the guitar as Robert Johnson. There's no provenance at all to work from and there was bias present in attribution from the beginning. The reversed image is a problem and the physical attributes of the alleged Johnson are more different than not - his earlobe for instance, the lack of a hood on the lazy eye, etc. Furthermore, I would be even more hesitant to say the other figure is Shines. The brow is very different, the eyes as well, the cheekbones, the hairline especially. I think the "Shines" in this photograph appears less Shines than the supposed Johnson even.

And a good bit of the strength of this photo being Johnson is attributed to Shines having said he posed in a photo with Johnson for a newspaper article/ad. I bet researchers are scouring extant southern newspapers from the time for that photo. The fact that two of Johnson's close associates failed to identify the man as RJ is relevant. One poster here in the thread dismisses that circumstance entirely due to their age, but I do not. I think it more likely that they would recall a person from their distant past. I've used aged associates to help identify subjects in photos but that's an anecdotal example that doesn't carry much clout and probably doesn't have any real bearing on this case. But it is a common practice in photo identification that works more often than not. Shines' daughter has said it's her father and other 'authorities" have joined the ranks to say it's Johnson and Shines. Who is correct? We don't know.

I personally would love for this to be Johnson. (Not as much as the folks who would gain financially and in notoriety certainly, and make no mistake that financial gain plays a part in this argument.) When discoveries like this come to light it's tremendously exciting. But there are issues with this photo that give me considerable pause and despite many historians, music authorities, and writers attesting that it IS NOT JOHNSON the photo is currently used to identify Johnson over verified images around the internet, including Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists. That I think is a big problem from a historical standpoint. It's just as likely not Johnson as it possibly could maybe be Johnson or somebody else. If the subject weren't holding a guitar would it as likely be Johnson? I don't feel that it would.

We do however have two certified photos of Johnson, and we have his music. He's a fascinating figure to be sure and because of that all types of allegations about him will continue to swirl and emerge. The fact that two associates of Johnson said that it is not him (nor Shines either) is compelling. And while it is an "alleged" photo of Johnson it certainly needs to remain as such and not take the place of confirmed properly attributed images. It's symptomatic of the very sloppy and sensationalized nature of poor journalism and social media which lacks any expertise or rigor and which has worked its way into scholarly historical research. Things do not become true simply because we wish them true, and because it would be cool.

Or else Gram Parson would have co-written Wild Horses and also be playing the piano part on it.








Anyway this is way too long and who cares. Listen to his recordings and enjoy them. They're sped up by the way and not actually representative of his playing.
Last edited by T. Berry Shuffle on 14 Nov 2017, 19:48, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby T. Berry Shuffle » 14 Nov 2017, 17:48

T. Berry Shuffle wrote:They're sped up by the way and not actually representative of his playing.




Another myth that emerged about Johnson and which has been disproved.
Last edited by T. Berry Shuffle on 14 Nov 2017, 19:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Tactful Cactus » 14 Nov 2017, 18:17

That's thorough. Pat on the back T Berry. Remember there was a film clip aswell? Later debunked because a 40s film poster was spotted in the background.

Ironically I don't think he looks like the same person in the two verified photos. Was there a big age gap there?

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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Diamond Dog » 14 Nov 2017, 18:38

trans-chigley express wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:
Diamond Dog wrote:If that photo is indeed a reversed image, that means the guitarist is playing it left handed.

Is there any other photo anyone has seen of a well known (indeed any) right handed guitarist playing the instrument left handed?


Charlie O. wrote:As noted before, he isn't playing it, or even pretending to play it. It's a prop, and he's just holding it for the photograph (see my post on the first page).


Come on Charlie.... no right handed guitarist picks up a guitar (even a prop guitar) and poses left handed with it. It's completely alien to them. That's like a drummer sitting with his hi hat on the 'wrong' side for him, whilst being photographed.. it just wouldn't ever happen.

If the photographer knew the image would be reversed they may have asked Johnson to hold it left handed so it would look right in the final image.


Why would the photographer know the image would be reversed? How? Was it normal practice?
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Moleskin » 14 Nov 2017, 18:46

Thank you T Berry.
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby bobzilla77 » 14 Nov 2017, 18:58

Diamond Dog wrote:
Another thing - this photo of Shines & Johnson (which allegedly appeared in a local newspaper); surely by now, with all the archivists and historians that abound on this planet now (not to mention the vested interests of the guy that bought the photo), this would have been discovered?


Not necessarily. Remember there were "paper drives" during WW2 - all kinds of printed matter got turned over for recycling. Pre-war comics in nice condition sell for incredible amounts because so few survived. I've also heard about them going door to door asking for old records for the war effort, so they could be melted down to coat bombs.

This is a pretty interesting story isn't it!
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Re: Robert Johnson - a third photo?

Postby Thang-y » 14 Nov 2017, 19:17

The Modernist wrote:
Thang-y wrote:It only means it's possible when things match if there's an absence of things that don't match.

The ears don't match, in Johnson's case.



I don't know how you can say that with such certainty. In the third picture his head is at a different angle making it very hard to compare.


Lines and curves are different. Very clear on "Shines" but noticeable enough on "Johnson". I'm just repeating what I said before which is why I stopped.

Maybe if you took a pencil and tried drawing the different faces you'd realise quite how different they are. From that alone I'm certain it's a fake but I also am certain it's a modern photo. I hope the people behind it own up soon.