Jim Hendin

Iconic Motown Photographer

We were thrilled to locate photographer Jim Hendin, who photographed the iconic cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album. Although the photo has been screen-printed on t-shirts and every other kind of memorabilia honoring the album’s 50-year anniversary, Hendin says he’s not seen a dollar, and hardly anyone has sought his permission for its use. Hendin was kind enough to provide an original print to grace the cover of The Positive Community. Thank you, Mr. Hendin.

Hendin got his first assignment at Motown 1968. “After months of persistence I managed to secure a cover shoot for Sugar and Spice, a Martha Reeves and the Vandellas album,” he recalled. “The thrill and excitement of this first session was unparalleled because it was my first rite of passage into what is warmly referred to as ‘the Motown Family.’” There were many more assignments to come. Remembering his time at Motown fondly, Hendin said, “Although business was now conducted at the Motown Center Building, a large ten-story affair in the middle of Downtown Detroit, Motown Records and all those connected to it still kept the original sense that we were not simply a big company, but instead, a big, extended family. There really was a family spirit of togetherness and compassion in everything we did. An all for one, one for all cohesiveness that made working for Motown a spectacular experience.”

Over the next seven years, he drew closer and closer to the Motown family, attending parties, press conferences, and recording sessions — each time with camera in tow. He also took many photos in his Detroit studio. Memories flowed as he described the atmosphere. “An always happy Stevie Wonder would be there with his tape recorder and harmonica. The Supremes and The Four Tops would get together as the super group ‘Magnificent Seven’ for an outrageous session complete with cowboy chaps, hats, holsters, and saddles.” He went on to shoot many, many photos for Berry Gordy and Motown—album covers, press, and publicity shots.

The What’s Going On shoot was different. It took place at Gaye’s home. Hendon remembered he was “clicking away,” following Gaye around. When Gaye went into the backyard, he went too. It started to sleet and snow; Hendin kept clicking and caught what has become a world-famous photograph on the front and back covers of one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time. Hendin has been quoted as saying, “It was luck or something stronger we had that day.” Or perhaps it was a great photographer with an eye for the perfect picture. That’s my impression.

Visit http://hendinphoto.com/ to view a range of Motown photographs and some of Hendin’s other work, as well. His work is iconic, his photographs have touched our lives for decades, and they’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.