Musician, actor, and photographer Jamie Marshall captures the many moods of Prague

Marshall, known to many as an acoustic guitarist, is a Renaissance man of many talents.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 09.02.2021 11:09 (updated on 04.03.2021)

Jamie Marshall has been a fixture of the Prague music scene for many years, playing guitar and singing at places like Jazz Dock as well as at regular nights at local pubs like James Joyce. But that is just one of his talents. He also is a photographer and an actor.

With music venues closed, he has turned more of his attention to photography. His scenic shots capture and often misty waterfront and moody downtown landmarks. He also has framed prints for sale via photography site Picfair. People who would rather print and frame the pictures on their own can contact him over his website, or via Instagram or Facebook, where many of his photos can be seen.

Marshall has several favorite spots in Prague. The street Nový Svět, a sort of lost corner of Prague that has not aged is one. Others he likes are more well-known, such as the Vyšehrad fortress, Stromovka park, and the waterfront in Malá Strana.

“There's so much beauty in this city. And the obvious tourist spots too. I try where possible to see them differently than a holiday snapper,” he said.

Like many scenic photographers, he looks for particular times and conditions that are likely to create memorable shots. “I like early mornings and golden hour in the evening. If there's fog and it’s light enough, I'm out the door like a shot,” he said.

Golden hour is the time just after sunrise or before sunset, when the flat rays of sunlight give objects a warm glow. There is also blue hour, when the sun is just below the horizon and the indirect light give a cool, bluish look to the landscape.

There is more to getting a good photo than simply finding the right time. “Think composition all the time. Look for small details many might miss. Look up and around and don't go for an obvious shot,” he said.

“Try and envisage how the shot might look edited and posted somewhere,” he added.

He doesn’t like shots of the city that look nice are actually a blend of several pictures, putting buildings where they don’t belong, or sticking the sun or moon into impossible positions. “Keep things real. I'm not a fan of composite photos,” he said.

Marshall also likes to keep it simple when it comes to equipment. “My main camera is a first-generation Sony Alpha 7. It's my first full-frame camera. I also have a great pocket Sony, the RX100 – mine’s a mark 3. It’s a great portable in-your-jeans pocket kind of camera,” he said.

But with a phone and little luck, anyone can get good pictures if they try. “The guy who put the first camera on a mobile phone was something of a visionary!” he said. But they have limitations. “A lot depends on the lighting.”

And now, many phones cost as much or more than a pocket camera. “I really liked my old Nokia N95 phone, which had a great camera. I doubt I'd spend a fortune on a phone just to get a decent camera. As good as the newer smartphones are I don't have that kind of money to spend,” he said.

His interest in photography goes back to his childhood, though he has never been very keen on the more technical side.

“My Dad was a hobby photographer and I was given an Agfa ISO Rapid 1 Parator camera in about 1965/66. The technique of photography baffled me. Dad tried to explain it, but I never really got it,” he said.

The Agfa Parator was a somewhat basic point-and-shoot camera, though it did have a few settings.

“Even now my technical knowledge is pretty rubbish. Thanks to my a friend, it has improved now so shooting in full manual mode doesn't freak me out,” he said.

He has a long list of photographers that he finds inspirational: Steve McCurry,Robert Doisneau, Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, Jason Edwards, Helmut Newton, Greg Williams, and Robert Frank.

“There are lots of really good photographers on Instagram once you get past the self-obsessed duck face pullers and ‘influencers.’ … Jordi Koalitic, a young Catalan, is endlessly inventive,” he said.

Marshall first came to Prague in 1996 after two Czechs saw him playing in a pub in London, and asked if he wanted to do some gigs here. “I said yes not knowing what fate awaited me. I did five gigs in seven days and had a spot on national TV, so it worked out!” he said.

He returned a few times and came to live here permanently in 2004. “I had fallen in love with Prague,” he said.

He also now does work as an actor. “I came to it very late in life. Things are tough at present because of COVID, but I hope, as many others do, that filming returns again to Prague,” he said.

Most recently he had a role in a Netflix film playing an Italian passenger on a hijacked airliner.

“I was doing my best not to sound like Chico Marx. There are vampires in the mix too. The working title is Blood Red Sky,” he said.

He was recently in Amundsen, a film about the Norwegian explorer who conquered the South Pole. “I had one line and spent half a day on set. Ted Otis was in it too,” he said.

He also did the voice of Dick Cheney in the Czech film Droneman (Modelář) and appeared in the 2017 film Borg vs. McEnroe . His work on TV series and miniseries includes Carnival Row, Knightfall, World on Fire, and The Quarantine.

He also hasn’t given up on music. For almost a year now he has been hosting Sunday night guitar concerts from his flat via a live stream on Facebook. These also serve as a way for people to connect through the live comments.

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