Skip to main content

Robert Johnson Photo Controversy: Forensic Artist Claims to Have Identified Fourth Image of Delta Blues Legend

A forensic artist named Lois Gibson recently identified what she feels is the fourth known image of Delta blues legend Robert Johnson.

But several musicologists aren't so sure.

Only two images are universally agreed to depict Johnson, who died in 1938 at age 27. However, in 2008, Gibson (the forensic artist, not the guitar maker) said a photo of a man holding a guitar and standing with a friend was, in fact, Johnson. The guardians of his estate agreed, but many music commentators disputed the claim.

That was the third photo. Now, it seems, Gibson has come across a fourth photo of Johnson.

Gibson says this new photo, discovered in a desk drawer and showing four people drinking in a bar, also features Johnson. It was found by retired lawyer Donald Roark, who bought an antique desk at auction in 2013 and found the picture inside. He told "I guess it was the hat; I chuckled and thought, 'That guy kinds of looks like Robert Johnson.'" Later he consulted with Gibson, who said, "Ninety-nine percent of them I look at, and I don't laugh in their face, but I shrug it off."

But Gibson thinks this fourth picture is genuine, and that it also shows Johnson's wife (Callette Craft), her friend Estella Coleman and musician Robert Lockwood Jr.

You can read more (and see the photo in question) right here.