See Esther Anderson's Candid Photos of Bob Marley

A new exhibition shows Anderson's intimate portraits of the reggae legend, captured before he shot to global fame

Actress, filmmaker and photographer Esther Anderson was a revolutionary. Dubbed the Jamaican Frida Kahlo, in 1973 she captured a series of personal portraits of an unknown street poet, Bob Marley. Those candid photographs will appear in her London exhibition, A Rebel Prophet, at the Dadiani gallery.

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Anderson’s images focus on Marley not as a music icon, but show the Wailer’s frontman as a messenger of hope, a poet and voice of the oppressed, before he found his global audience. The images also highlight Marley’s approach to practicing ‘natural politics’; though he never wanted to a political figure, he inspired his compatriots to take back control of their own lives after decades of colonial rule. Anderson wanted to spread the same message.

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Anderson documented homegrown culture through music, dance and photography and also acted alongside Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier and Sammy Davis Jr. Later, she moved behind the lens and adjusted her focus to the landscape around her. Influenced by her love for music, art, cinema, political resistance and, most importantly, Jamaican culture, Anderson sought to improve the fractured and often violent situation of the Jamaican people. This shared ideology led to her collaboration with Marley.

Anderson was helped to establish Island Records in the ‘60s and, from her time spent as an actress, she understood how to use the industry to amplify her message. Alongside Marley, the pair shared an unwavering commitment to spread reggae music and the rastafarian message of peace and love, from Kingston to the world.

Esther Anderson’s A Rebel Prophet will be exhibited by Dadiani from 8 December to 16 January at 30 Cork St, London, W1S 3NG