Keeper of Zion Gate

Joseph Hill meditating by the riverside.

This image is from the photo shoot for Culture’s best-selling CD One Stone. When Joseph first played me a copy of One Stone, I thought it was one of the best Culture CD’s in a long time. He had this whole concept for the cover revolving around this white stone crystal someone had given him. He went on to explain that all it takes is one stone to start to chip away at anything and eventually causing its destruction. It could be a stone tumbling down the hillside, a stone that’s moved by the water in a river or a stone thrown at the walls of Babylon.

Culture is perhaps my all-time favorite reggae group and I’ve been honored to have shot four CD covers for them over the years. I’ve seem them perform live dozens and dozens of times all over and shot hundreds of photos. Partly because of all this Joseph and I become a good friends over the 20+ years, so when I was in Jamaica I’d made sure to stop to see him in the countryside where he lived with his wife Pauline and their family. He was always a most generous host, making food, picking fruits or giving out high-grade herb.

For this photo shoot he had this spot by a river he wanted to do it at, it was further up in the country past Golden Spring. It was a pretty nice river, he said he always stops here to bathe when he’s in the area. It was on Christmas eve day when I got my friend Harris to give me and legendary sax player “Deadly” Headly Bennet up to Mt. Silas (by Constant Spring) where Joseph lives. I got some great photos that day, just hanging out at his house and down at the river for the CD shoot. Here are my notes for that day in December 24, 1996. It was August 19th four years ago that he left us for the gates of Zion, he went by many names, Culture, Uncle Lloydy, Fiya, Keeper of Zion Gates but this is livicated to you Joseph.

12/24/96 (Sunny) Christmas eve day, going up to Joseph Hill’s place to shoot the cover shots for his One Stone CD. Harris is stopping by with “Deadly” Headly (Bennet) and will go up. We got up there pretty early and sat around listening to the CD, was nice. We all hung out a bit and reasoned a bit, smoked nuff ganja, he was surprised to see Headly.

I took a few shots around the yard and then we all drove up (in the back of Joseph’s pick-up truck) to this place past Golden Spring. Nice area, nice river, cool water, the perfect spot, for anything. I could have stayed there ALL day just doing nothing but enjoying the view and the water, but had to do some work. Was not the most ideal light by this time of day and being in the forest, but will have to make do.

We shot at a few different spots along the river, got some wicked shots. When it was over we just hung out smoked more ganja and enjoyed the water, the river was great ! Got back home and tried to call the publisher but as usual he was not there, he owes me over $J 70 grand and the secretary says he left $J 5 G’s for me, wha kinda ting dat ! She asked me if I wanted to still see him, I thought whats the point now, will do it later.

I just hung out pretty much and watched TV. Bassie came by later with this huge bag of herb, I mean shopping bag huge, I took out a portion and then put it out for the rest for the house. Bassie, Chinna and I just hung out watching TV and at midnight we opened up a bottle of champagne. Chinna said, “Who says we forget the holiday?”. Was a different Christmas eve indeed.

7 comments on “Keeper of Zion Gate”

  1. As usual a superb pic Brian (only very slightly marred by the foot being cut off!), and thanks for sharing the notes and experiences, I always really enjoy reading these. Keep ’em coming.

    • Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed it, sometimes you have to make sacrifices when shooting, lose more on top or bottom? Even with the wide angle, I just couldn’t get him all in shot, maybe that’s why they never used this picture for the CD lol. I do think RAS made some posters from this image if I recall.

  2. Nice one this shot..always guessing what is behind a camera shot, you now feed my curiosity…one stone is one of my best
    Blessings from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa, Africa…the mother land

  3. rest n peace we remember u J.Hill, in Jah guidance!! Amen..

  4. i have looked all over to purchase keeper of zion gate..the you know if it is for sale anywhere?

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