As a preeminent photographer of her generation, Simon built her photography career capturing indelible images of cultural icons.
From Madonna to Patti Smith to William S. Burroughs and a Who’s Who of 70s-era artists that includes The Rolling Stones, Queen and David Bowie, photographer Kate Simon’s list of subjects doubles as a rundown of American legends and global titans. But it’s her expansive association with Bob Marley that has defined her career, as the reggae luminary was a frequent muse for Simon’s lens from the height of his career up until his death in 1981.
Simon’s treasure trove of soul-piercing photographs of Marley fill the new book Rebel Music: Bob Marley & Roots Reggae from Genesis Publications. Originally published in 2004 with a limited run of 500 copies, the updated edition is now available to the wider public for the first time. With an introduction written by Smith, the reprint is a retrospective of the photographer and her muse, providing a rare, behind-the-scenes look at both the triumphant and quiet moments of the musician who became a mythological figure. Simon spoke to Observer about her path to photography, Marley’s joyful radiance and the icons she’s met (and photographed) throughout her career.
What can you tell me about Madonna?
I loved her. I loved her. I’m not kidding. She came over to my studio and we just did a great shoot. It was one of my favorites. I didn’t know who she was at the time, and she was stunning. Like, God, she was beautiful. I’m someone who has photographed hundreds of people, and she stopped me in my tracks. Her eyes were penetrating. She was a stunning beauty. There’s one I took of her that is in the Smithsonian.