Thursday, February 25, 2016


by Jamie Goodsell 
All images © Henry Diltz

The next day, there were thousands. You couldn't even drive your car down the road, because cars were parked on each side of little country lanes, with not enough room to drive down. At that point, I had a rented station wagon and slept in the back of it behind the stage. That was fine because there was something going on all of the time. I spent most of the concert working right on the stage. 

What's one of your fondest memories from Woodstock? 
I remember the night Crosby, Stills and Nash played, I was way up at the top of the hill with 400,000 people in front of me, and I heard Chip's voice coming out of the big speakers, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome with us, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young." I thought, "There's my pals!" and it took me a couple of songs to make my way down. There were so many people. I was stepping over blankets, bodies, pushing my way down and finally got back on stage for half of their set. After that, I pretty much stayed on stage, because I didn't want to miss anything. I didn't shoot every single group - I actually missed The Grateful Dead. I missed Santana, I was probably off at the hog farm that afternoon.



What were you shooting with back then? 
After that secondhand camera, I got a Pentax. I had two, (one for color and one for black and white). I got a job shooting on The Monkees TV show, and found that the Pentax just wasn't holding up. After about a week, the number counter would break, and then the thumb advance would get real loose and fall off. Somebody stole my camera bag out of the backseat of my Volkswagen one day in Hollywood, when I ran into the cleaners for a couple of minutes. A friend of mine (who was a professional photographer) loaned me an extra Nikon body and a lens. I started using that and found that it was much more sturdy than those Pentax were. The Pentax cameras were silver and black, this was an all black Nikon. It just looked like a tank. I started buying lenses and got another body - so for forty years I shot Nikon - the Nikon S, and then a Nikon FMI never used the light meter in there. I never touched it, because if you have somebody in front of a dark background (vice versa), you couldn't tell how it was going to turn out. I had a Minolta spot meter tucked under my arm, and I would pull that out to read the person's cheek. You'd just read the skin tones, and then set the camera to exactly what that said. That was fine for many years and for many thousands of rolls of film. I think I have about 500,000 slides, and I'm sure there's an equal number of black and white, because there are thousands of proof sheets. 

Why did you switch to digital after all those years? 
Friends of mine started shooting digital, and at first I thought, "No way, I'm a film guy forever," and then I would pick them up and say, "This thing sets itself, it focuses itself" you pretty much hold it up in the air and push the button and it'll take a good picture. All of my friends had Canon, because they were kind of the best cameras in the early days of digital. Finally I thought, what the heck - I'm just gonna get one and try it out. The advantage of course is that you can see the picture right away, and it doesn't cost anything for film. 

So you shoot Canon now? 
I have a 5D Mark II, but I was going on the road with Garth Brooks and needed another body, so I bought a 60D - which was about half the price - and by gosh, I only use the 60D now! It's a lot simpler, it doesn't have so many bells and whistles. It's really easy to use and I can shoot video on it by just pushing a button. 

Do you feel like you take pictures the same way as you did with your film cameras? 
I'm probably a little looser, you know…because you don't have to think about, "Well gee I've only got 36 pictures here, I better make this count." When I first started, I remember going to the Newport Folk Festival (when we played there) and took a picture of Judy Collins onstage, and I took a picture of Howlin' Wolf on stage, but I took one picture! I have one slide of Judy Collins and one slide of Howlin' Wolf. When I would see something, I would frame it all up, be very careful and just take one picture. Now with digital, I just click away! With the big Canon camera, (I say big as opposed to a little pocket one) you look through there just like a regular camera - it doesn't feel any different. You're pushing the button, you're framing it up exactly the same. You don't have to take the light reading. Back then, a minute could go by and you may have missed the photo you wanted. Then of course you have the advantage of looking to see whether you're right on or not, whether you got what you wanted…so that's always good. 

What do you like to photograph besides musicians, Henry? 
I use the 60D when I'm doing photos for someone who needs photos, but all day long I use a Canon PowerShot. I just bought a new one last week - a 710. I was using a 420, (I've had about six or eight different ones). Every year or two I buy a new one because they get better and better. I take a hundred pictures a day, wherever I am, whatever I see. I'm known as a music photographer - I've done all these magazine covers, album covers (a lot of them by accident), but in my slideshows for my friends, I would start showing series of things. I would get three or four pictures of my friends, maybe reading…and when I was sorting them out, I would put them together as a reading series. I would do that with different things - like eating or sleeping - put a series of different friends doing that, and do a slideshow. One of my friends napped all the time - he'd be reading and fall asleep - then I'd take a picture of him napping. Pretty soon I had a napping series. Then I started doing repetitive categories like: hearts, stars, tattoos, peace signs, people giving the finger. Then it was trucks, old cars, flowers, nudes, babies, animals, cows - I love to shoot cows. I love old barns. 

You just love to take photographs. 
I gotta tell you, these are all categories that I see. I would do numbers, 1-100. Whenever I'd see a number anywhere, I would take a picture of it - not just the number itself - it had to be a scene with a number in it somewhere. One day, an ambulance pulled up to the sidewalk as someone had fainted. The guy ran out and put his medical box down, opened it up, and there was a big 27 on it. So I took a picture of him lying there and had the 27 in the shot. For a long time I had a paper in my wallet that would tell me what numbers I needed. Eventually, I got 1-100. Even today now, fifty years later…I still take numbers when I see them, and now I have twenty or thirty of every single number. 

Do you think you'll ever do anything with them? 
I'm eventually going to make books out of them. It's like hunting. If I go to a new city, there are new signs and new kinds of graffiti. When I was on the road with The Lovin' Spoonful in '66, every little town in the midwest would have a different colored fire hydrant; they'd be red, green, purple, blue, and every damn color. I'd run out and take a picture of it, and that was my first kind of big series outside of my friends sleeping or reading. I think I have about 300,000 little pocket camera photos. I haven't even looked through all of them, they're just compiling on my computer. 

So you're kind of like an image-hoarder?  
Haha! It's true! I've got a huge hard drive that I want to go through and make different books.

Was this photograph taken on The Rolling Stones tour in '79? 
Actually, Ron Wood was touring for his next solo record, and a friend of mine who did publicity for Columbia asked me to do the tour photography. Keith Richards was in the band (because it was in-between Rolling Stones concerts), Ian McLagan from Small Faces played keyboards, Bobby Keys played saxophone, and they had a reggae drummer named Zigaboo who was just amazing! It was supposed to be a week, and that turned into three weeks flying around with these guys, riding in their limos, and just documenting everything I could. I never thought of it as a job, it was just fun to observe and document. People used to ask me, "You're a photographer, are you a professional?" I would say, "No, I'm not a professional." I've made a living for fifty years and put a couple of kids through school, but I still feel like a kid with a camera, you know? 

How did the Richard Pryor album cover happen?
He was a young comedian on the circuit here in L.A. in the '60s, and his manager happened to be the same guy that managed The Mamas and the Papas. I went down and took photos of him during one of his sets, and a few days later his manager asked me and Gary Burden to go to his house and do an album cover. That's literally all he said to me, "Just go take a picture for an album cover." 

What was it like working with him? 
Firstly, I remember that he did not want to get out of bed. His wife said, "He won't get out of bed, you go try and get him up." So we went to his bedroom and he says, "Just take the picture of me lying in bed and that'll be the cover." We talked him into sitting up and talking about it, and he said, "If I do anything, I want it to be rootsy." Gary knew about this antique shop nearby with authentic aborigine weapons and jewelry, so he left to get that stuff. Richard then took us to this little cave in a vacant lot near his house, and we staged the campfire and everything. He started getting into character, threatening us when we got too close and pretending like he was a real native. Gary had the uncanny ability of looking through hundreds of slides and picking out that one special image for the cover. 

Wasn't there was an issue with National Geographic? 
Gary got Rick Griffin (the San Francisco artist) to draw oak leaves, imitating the National Geographic covers at the time, and we added the iconic yellow border also. We quickly got a cease and desist letter from their lawyer, and we also got a second letter from The Grammy's, nominating us for album cover of the year. The record company had to do the second printing without those little oak leaves. They replaced it with little statues of liberties, so if you find one from the first printing - those are much more rare. Well, vinyl is making a comeback and people collect them, you know? CDs were handy, but they really lost that art form of the twelve inch square. That was the main thing, you put the record on and you stared at the artwork! English musicians would tell me, "We stared at Crosby, Stills, and Nash on that couch, trying to imagine what it was like to be there, to be them." People got their whole image of the group from the album cover, it was a very important thing and then it disappeared. The groups today want their stuff on vinyl again, so that art form is luckily coming back. 

Do you have any of your album covers on display? 
My little studio-bungalow has got shelves all over the place with boxes of slides, wooden filing cabinets full of proof sheets and negatives. I don't have any wall space for anything really. All of the records are kind of sideways on the shelves, I don't tend to put up a lot of my own art. I have one photograph of CSN in my office on the wall. Nowadays, I've been doing this thing called The Morrison Hotel Gallery, and that's allowed me to display a lot of my work in a public setting. 

The Morrison Hotel Gallery got named kind of accidentally. We had a giant blow-up of the Morrison Hotel picture in the storefront. People would see that picture and walk right in. We liked the lettering in the photo and got someone to hand-paint it on the window (just as a PR thing), and then very quickly we became known as "The Morrison Hotel Gallery." The name is good, because it says "music photographs" without saying "legends of rock photography," which I always hated because it's not all rock & roll, it's also singer-songwriters. I wouldn't call Joni Mitchell rock & roll, you know? 

How do you select the photographers for Morrison Hotel Gallery? 
We'd select photographers we liked, and in many cases they'd come to us for representation. I'd say we add a new photographer every month or two that come out of the woodworks with photographs that no one has seen. 

What does the gallery provide for the photographers it represents? 
For a while, we'd always have a big opening. We'd print up invitations, mail them out to all of our buyers and we'd try to publicize. Very often at an opening, you get a few hundred people crammed in there (drinking wine out of plastic cups) and they don't really buy. Sometimes it's so crowded you can't even walk around and pick one out. It's not a good time to sell. They come back on the following week and usually pick something up they can't stop thinking about. It usually happens that way. Eventually we realized we were spending a couple thousand dollars for every opening, doing the invitations, cards, mailing, etc. If we didn't sell a couple of photos, that was just money out of our pockets, so nowadays it's all digtial. We'll send an e-blast to all of our buyers, we have a PR company that gets us magazine interviews as well. So we still have openings for new photographers, but we don't spend all that money on the openings, and you know…we can't have an opening for everybody, but we make an announcement. Now we have many photographers and only room for about forty pictures on the wall. I'm lucky if I have two up there these days. We now have about 125 photographers. 

So when we get a new person, they get to have a page on our website with all their pictures on it - we'll maybe have an opening where we hang one of their pictures - and we'll keep a couple up, but mainly we sell on our website. Someone will walk into our store and say, "Do you have any Rolling Stones photos?" There might be one on the wall, but we have twelve people who shot The Rolling Stones and we can show them on the computer which ones we've got. 

Do you see the gallery expanding outside of New York City? 
We recently opened a space in the lobby of the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles. 
We'd love to open in Paris. We wanted to open in London. We tried to open one in Tokyo, but we found that they don't really hang things up on their walls - most of the homes there are made of delicate materials - so we had to sell 8x10's instead. In each case you've got to find a really great spot where people walk by. Rent is quite high. It isn't a gold mine, you know? More like a copper mine - or a silver gelatin mine, haha.

What have you been listening to these days? 
I still love CSN, I love The Eagles, and Jackson Browne. It's songwriters I really love, like Jimmy Webb - I love his music. If I put on something in the house, it's usually The Beatles or Brazilian music. I live in Laguna Beach one part of the week, and there I listen to classical music. When I wake up, it's nice to have something pleasant on. Music is such a large part of our lives. Seeing and hearing are the ones that occupy our attention all day long, so to be a musician and a photographer is a good thing. 

How do you stay inspired, Henry? 
I love music and I love photos. I'll go to the all-night newsstand and spend a hundred bucks on magazines. I buy music magazines and photo magazines. Anything from, MOJO, Vogue, Elle, etc. I don't even read them all - I've got piles of them all over - and every time I pick one up, it's a mind-blowing trip! 

There's a lot of content in the world, that's for sure. 
You've got to keep centered somehow and try to figure out the real meaning of life. For me it's reading the Indian guru's, like the Yogananda book, Autobiography of a Yogi. I read that in the '60s, and it sort of opened up a little doorway into the spiritual world for me. Eckhart Tolle wrote a book about the importance of being in the moment called, The Power of Now - that's an amazing book! I read The Golden Present by Sri Swami Satchidananda, and The Dali Lama has some great books out also - you read them and feel centered and grounded. Otherwise, you can kind of float away on sensual gotta stay grounded, figure out what all this is, and do the right thing. I'm probably more fascinated by life and the energy of life than I am by photos.

So what's next?
I'm doing a speaking tour with Patti Boyd, called Behind The Lens in the spring. Then I'm supposed to do a show in the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma - they want to do a Neil Young show. I've done several shows in Sweden; I think I'm going do another one there at the Swedish Museum of Photography in Stockholm in 2017. I really want to do more books! I've photographed so many people, (most of them have never been seen) and I've collected all of these categories of things over the years.


Tell me about one of your philosophies on photography. 
I often say, having a camera is like having a passport into people's lives. Rolling Stone Magazine called me one day and asked me to go to Truman Capote's house and take a picture for the cover. I thought, "My god! Truman Capote, I read his stories in English class over in Munich, Germany. Holy shit! I get to go to his house and hang out with him!" And for what? Because I'm there to take his picture. 

What advice could you bestow on aspiring music photographers out there?
Well in the beginning, you're photographing people who aren't necessarily famous, but it's the people that are starting out that need the photos. I was photographing all of these people in Laurel Canyon, and then they got famous - that was a lucky break for me. I was in the right place at the right time, but any photographer anywhere that photographs their friends that play music, that's a great thing. It's a way of getting into it, and if you're good at it, your pictures get used. People will see them and ask you to take their pictures, or do their album covers, the word of your talent will spread. You know after about twenty years of taking photos, you're going to amass an archive - that was a surprise to me - I never once thought, "One day I will have all of this history." I never once thought about what this would all mean later on, or how it would grow…suddenly it was just there and that's when we opened the gallery. 

Also, after fifty years, I have an inadvertent business of licensing photos. Now that I have a historical archive, I get emails every single day from people doing books, compilation albums, videos, magazines - they're always asking for pictures. You can't imagine what's going to happen twenty years from now - I mean if we're all here on the planet still. If you keep on taking pictures and that becomes your main thing, you can sort of imagine that in twenty years you're gonna have an awful lot of pictures, you know? What are they gonna be? Are they gonna be mostly Nashville musicians? A lot of the people you're shooting now are gonna make it, you know? I mean they don't even know if they're gonna make it yet, but for sure some of them will and you'll have pictures of them before they were even known, and that's what happened to me. 

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