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In Clearwater, Michael Jackson’s test photos from ‘Thriller’ are up for auction

Blackwell Auctions will offer them on Dec. 9.
 
At Clearwater's Blackwell Auctions on Dec. 9, 2023, this photo will be offered for sale. It was taken by Dick Zimmerman, and is an original Polaroid test photo of Michael Jackson taken less than a minute before the photographer shot the version of the pose that producer Quincy Jones recommended for the legendary ‘Thriller’ LP’s cover.
At Clearwater's Blackwell Auctions on Dec. 9, 2023, this photo will be offered for sale. It was taken by Dick Zimmerman, and is an original Polaroid test photo of Michael Jackson taken less than a minute before the photographer shot the version of the pose that producer Quincy Jones recommended for the legendary ‘Thriller’ LP’s cover. [ Courtesy of Blackwell Auctions ]
Published Nov. 29, 2023|Updated Nov. 30, 2023

Fans of Michael Jackson will wanna be startin’ the bidding on some rare items at Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater on Dec. 9.

The auction house will offer a group of original Polaroid test shots from the 1982 photo shoot for Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” LP, as well as the Hasselblad camera that took the photos for the album cover.

The items are from the archive of Dick Zimmerman, who shot the iconic album cover. It’s the first time that they have gone to auction. They will come with a letter of authenticity from Zimmerman and a copyright release giving ownership to the winning bidder.

Edwin Bailey, owner of Blackwell Auctions, said Zimmerman was referred to him by a contact in California. Zimmerman lives in Clearwater and wanted to work with someone local.

Bailey said the items are in the top five or 10 things he’s handled in terms of pop culture.

Zimmerman was a celebrity photographer in the 1980s and ‘90s who worked with Jackson on two other projects and photographed his wedding to Lisa Marie Presley.

In a news release, Zimmerman recalled that Jackson was polite and quite camera-shy during the shoot.

“Michael had a little trouble confronting the camera, believe it or not,” Zimmerman said. “To get his attention off the camera, a tiger cub was brought in. It turned out to be a great diversion for him. His attention went totally to playing with it.”

Jackson is holding the cub in two of the five Polaroid shots that will be auctioned.

Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the legendary "Thriller" LP.
Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the legendary "Thriller" LP. [ Courtesy of Blackwell Auctions ]

The items will all be sold in separate lots. The first is the Hasselblad 500ELX camera that Zimmerman used on the shoot.

On Dec. 9, 2023, Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer this Hasselblad 500ELX camera used by celebrity photographer Dick Zimmerman during a 1982 photo shoot with Michael Jackson for the cover of the "Thriller" LP, the bestselling record album of all time.
On Dec. 9, 2023, Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer this Hasselblad 500ELX camera used by celebrity photographer Dick Zimmerman during a 1982 photo shoot with Michael Jackson for the cover of the "Thriller" LP, the bestselling record album of all time. [ Courtesy of Blackwell Auctions ]

The test shot taken of Jackson wearing the iconic white suit was taken less than a minute before Zimmerman took the version that made the cover and is more valuable than the other photos.

The four remaining Polaroids are of looks that were considered for the album.

Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the "Thriller" LP.
Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the "Thriller" LP. [ Courtesy of Blackwell Auctions ]
Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the "Thriller" LP.
Blackwell Auctions in Clearwater will offer original Polaroid test photos of Michael Jackson shot by Dick Zimmerman that were considered for use as the cover shot for the "Thriller" LP. [ Courtesy of Blackwell Auctions ]
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What to know before you go to Blackwell Auctions

The auction starts at noon Dec. 9 at 5251 110th Ave. N., Clearwater. 727-546-0200. blackwellauctions.com.