Break on through to the world of Jim Morrison and The Doors at Camden gallery retrospective

Forty years ago rock and roll frontman Jim Morrison was found dead in a Paris hotel room at the age of 27 abruptly ending the legendary rise of The Doors.

Charismatic hipster Morrison and the band - whose hits include Light My Fire and Break On Through - had come to define the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Now Proud Gallery in Camden is staging an exhibition of rare photographs that look back at the birth, evolution and final years of the band to mark the 40th anniversary of the singer’s death.

Pictures that have never been seen publicly before are shown alongside iconic images - such as The Doors in front of a massive billboard in Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, to promote their first album.

Bobby Klein, the band’s first official photographer, took the shot. The 68-year-old, who lives in LA, said: “It was a big deal that billboard really, it almost caused accidents on the Sunset Strip because people had never seen a band with their own billboard.”

Bobby met The Doors through a friend at music label Elecktra Records and realised Morrison was his next door neighbour.

“Jim was a heartthrob,” he said. “Every where that we went, even if they didn’t know who he was, people would turn and look. Jim was easy to photograph and The Doors were very cooperative. We had them climb billboards and up mountains and not a word of complaint.”

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The exhibition also features photographs by Frank Lisciandro, a long-time friend who met Morrison at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) film school.

His photographs capture the band on stage and private moments of a “less theatrical” Morrison, who both photographers described as a “true poet”.

Frank, who lives in Oregon, America, said: “I knew Jim in a completely different way because we were friends. I didn’t see him as that leather-clad heartthrob icon that other people did. Jim was a performer and he would get up on stage and weave a spell for you.

“But when he was off stage he was this quiet guy who enjoyed jokes, he was sometimes mischievous like child, he was funny and interested in other people. He was just a tremendously likeable person to be around. Jim was more Rimbaud than he was Mick Jagger.”

By the time of his death Morrison was famously mired in alcoholism and Bobby revealed the rest of The Doors will not mark the anniversary saying “I asked about that and they said that they will not celebrate his death, they’re not going to use this as a mark of any kind”.

But the photographs tell their own story and offer a rare insight into the life of Morrison and The Doors, both on and off stage.

The Doors of Perception exhibition is free to enter at Proud Galleries in The Horse Hospital, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, NW1, from Friday, June 24 to Sunday, August 14.