Friday, January 29, 2016


Last year, Third Man Records teamed up with Salemtown Board Co. to make a very solid skateboard called, The Campus Cruiser. A lot of love and detail went into the making, and I wanted to share this video that goes a bit deeper into what Salemtown is all about. By supporting this company, you're supporting a positive impact on young men in the community and giving them a chance to obtain a strong work ethic early on in life. Please pass this information on to your friends, and tell the world about this amazing company. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016


All images © Henry Diltz

     It was a beautiful day for the month of December, but there wasn't any place I'd rather be than in my office. I opened up the curtain and let some natural light emanate from the window, as I was about to speak with photographer Henry Diltz. The image above appears in the gatefold of the first album release by Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was taken in Big Bear, California in 1969 and has sold over 4 million copies to date. I had this image displayed in my room as a teenager, not even thinking about who took it. Many years later when I began studying photography, I thought to look for the photo credit on the album (something I wouldn't have done back then). What I found was a very thoughtful, organic approach to photography and it had a tremendous impact on me. Having the chance to talk to Henry was one of the highlights of my life. Our conversation lasted over two and a half hours that day and I can't thank him enough for taking the time to speak with me. It felt like I was just catching up with an old friend. He was humble, comical, and genuinely excited to talk about photography. Henry was the official photographer at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock. He's photographed some of the most iconic musicians of all time. It's hard not to be in complete awe of the documentation and incredible collection of images that he's created over the past fifty years. It is my extreme pleasure to be able to share his thoughts, memories, and perspective with you all.


What was your childhood like, Henry? 
I was an airline baby. My father was a TWA pilot and my mother was a stewardess. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri. It was in the middle of World War II and my father was in the Army Air Corps. He died in a plane crash and my mother was left with two little boys. I lived in three or four different places before I was three years old and then I lived in Long Island until I was about six or so. My mother later remarried a guy who was in the Navy and he started working as a civilian for the state department. We lived in Tokyo for a while and Bangkok, then moved back to New York where I graduated high school. 

What did you plan on studying after high school? 
I was actually all enrolled in the University of Montana and I was gonna be a Forest Ranger. I was very excited about it! I had my dorm room and everything and I was going to study Wildlife Management and Technology. Then my father was assigned to Bonn, Germany when I was entering college. My mom said, "You can go to Montana or you can come to Europe." I thought, well I can always go back to Montana and of course that changed my entire life. I ended up going to an American college in Munich, Germany. It was the University of Maryland (overseas branch) and it was for dependents, you know…Army brats. There was 100 guys and 100 girls and they were from all over the world. I got quite an education on people because we were so diverse and the kids there had all lived in many different places. 

What did you end up studying in Munich? 
I was studying psychology, but all my friends there were studying for the service academy exams. I was reading their handbook one night and it said, "Sons of deceased veterans can automatically take the test, you don't need a congressional appointment." So I had to fly to London to take a physical exam first and the one night I was out, there was a skiffle group playing (it was kind of like English folk music). I was quite impressed and to this day I wonder who it really was. Was it the beginnings of The Kinks or The Who? Anyways, I took the exam but I couldn't pass because my eyes weren't good enough. (I wore glasses)

So that summer we were all going to hitchhike up to Scandinavia to see what kind of trouble we could get into, see all of the girls and everything. I was awakened one morning in my dorm room with a telegram that said, "Congratulations, you've been accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point" and I thought, "Oh hell no." I mean I wanted to go to Annapolis, but then the dean of the school and everyone would say, "Congratulations my boy, what a rare opportunity." After a while I thought what the hell, maybe I should go on this adventure, it's free you know? So I went to West Point kind of accidentally. It's an engineering school, it's math basically all of the time and that was my least favorite subject. I had been studying psychology in Munich, so I wasn't really sure I wanted to stay, but I did join the choir and the glee club which was fantastic! 

How did you end up playing in the Modern Folk Quartet? 
When I was at West Point, I joined the Columbia Record Club and started getting all of these folk records. This was about the time of The Kingston Trio and The Everly Brothers. I would hear that music and I would think, "I can't stay here four years." I'd be in the military for five years and thirty years old before I could figure out what I wanna do next. I left after a year of West Point and I went to the University of Hawaii. I bought a banjo as soon as I left and continued to major in psychology - which I did for a couple of years. While I was there I found a coffee house called the Greensleeves Coffee House where they played folk music. I ended up going down there almost every night of my life for about four and a half years and played folk music. Inevitably, we formed a folk group and that folk group was called the Modern Folk Quartet. 

When did the band start to gain some momentum? 
We eventually came to California to seek our fortunes and we came and played at the Troubadour, which is a big folk club in L.A. No one had ever seen or heard of us and we really caused quite a ruckus the first night we took the stage. The crowd heard this four part harmony and this driving folk song called "The Ox Driver". We got to the chorus and the crowd rose on their feet applauding. It was almost scary, you know? We quickly signed with Warner Brothers and got a manager and all that. We spent the next four years up until '66 traveling back and forth across the country playing colleges. Folk music was huge in the early 60's. We played some clubs, tv shows, and we made a couple of records on Warner Brothers. We cut a single with Phil Spector called "This Could Be The Night" by Harry Nilsson. As we were waiting for this record to come out…we thought, "This will make our career." But he ended up never putting it out because we weren't his kind of music. He was reluctant to put out anything he wasn't sure would be number one. So while we were waiting, a couple of the guys went back to Hawaii and we kind of broke up. 

Is that how you started to get into photography? Were you looking for something else?
Well, on our last tour we stopped in a little second-hand shop in East Lansing Michigan. There was a table full of second hand cameras and a couple of the guys decided to buy one, so I kind of followed along. We stopped into the drug store to buy film and he gave us this yellow Kodak box. I asked him, "How do you work all of these numbers?" and he said, "Look on the box." So for instance, it said something like, Sunlight: 250th @ f.8. So that's how I learned about exposure and light. When we got back to L.A. and developed the film, it turned out to be slide film that I was shooting with. So we had all of our hippie friends gathered up at a friends house in the living room, put the music on and had a slideshow viewing. Of course we were all smoking pot so our eyes were very keen, you know? To me, it was absolute magic! These scenes that we had lived on the road were now glowing on the wall in front of all of our friends. I just thought at that moment, “I’m going to take more of these things so we can have more slideshows.” That was the whole thing that got me into it really.

You photographed so many musicians, really in one of the peak times in music history. Do you think being in the M.F.Q. helped you get more of that kind of work? How did you network back then?
Well exactly, because while I was on the road I met people like Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Mama Cass, etc. I mean we had done television shows with The Mamas & the Papas, The Animals, and many different groups. So I knew all of these people, these were all of my friends and we all lived in Laurel Canyon together. When I started taking more pictures to have more slide shows, I was shooting my friends. It was all of the guys in my group and their girlfriends or wives and you know, our own sort of karmic group of friends. I would photograph the hell out of them in a week or two and then we’d have another slideshow. It was always fun to hear someone say, “Oh my god, I didn’t even know you took that picture.” So I developed a kind of a fly on the wall style because I wanted to surprise them. 

What was the progression from doing your slideshows to shooting album covers? 
I developed my style among all of these friends. These were all people I knew as musicians and so, it was easy for me. I mean I was hanging out with them anyways, we were pretty much like a club here in L.A. All the folk and folk-rock singers met every night at the Troubadour. When The Byrds or Buffalo Springfield started, these were all friends of mine you know? They started using my pictures as publicity photos. I was taking pictures at a love-in one day - getting all the colorful clothes and everything - this guy came up to me and said, “Hey you’re a photographer, my name is Gary Burden and I’m an architect…I’m remodeling Mama Cass’ house and she wants me to do her album cover." He told her, “I’m not a graphic artist, I’m an architect” and she said, "Well it’s the same thing, you make a blue print or you make an album cover, and it's art." So, we did a Mama Cass album cover and then we went on to do many others. We did bands like Steppenwolf, The Turtles, and eventually that photo of Crosby, Stills and Nash on the couch (which was probably the first well known one we did). We did some America covers, The Doors - Morrison Hotel, and then in the 70’s we started doing Jackson Browne and The Eagles. He was a dear friend of Mama Cass', (who knew everybody) and between the two of us, we were a welcomed team...we were like friends to everybody. We probably did a hundred album covers over the course of three or four years. 

You did Stephen Stills first solo cover too, didn't you? 
I did the first two. Stephen said, “Hey I’m going up to Colorado to hang out in this cabin, you wanna come up?” I went up there to hang out and one morning there was snow on the ground. So I took a few shots of him in the snow and he said, “Wait a minute,” and ran into the cabin and came out with that pink giraffe. I took three or four photos of it and I said "Okay, we’re done with the giraffe, I got that…now lets get rid of the giraffe," because I didn’t like it you know? We spent about a half an hour clicking away and I probably used a couple rolls of film. Later that year when he finished his first album, he picked that out as the cover.

There are some great players on that record too: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Booker T., Rita Coolidge and the list goes on and on. It was even engineered by Andy Johns who did almost every Led Zeppelin album. 
Yeah, there was so much talent there and I ended up going to England with him right after Colorado and spent three months living in his country manor. Then I did the second album cover there. A lot of my covers were just sort of hanging out with my friends, you know? 

What would you say goes into making a Henry Diltz picture? 
It involves being quiet and being interested in people, I was certainly interested in my friends. Framing is the fun part for me, looking through the little hole and framing up your friend, and getting that good angle. You move around quietly and move in until it fills the frame really nicely. It's about balance really, it’s kind of psychology and it feels good when the picture is framed nicely, you know? A lot of people will photograph their friends just standing there with a whole lot of stuff around them and I always say, "No, move in! Get them from the waste up or shoulders up." 


Did you always use natural light back then? 
In the beginning, that's all I could do. When it got dark I couldn't take pictures anymore. Just natural light, what I see is what I shoot and I don't try to make it up. It's real life I'm interested in, real people and real situations. 

Could you talk about your thought process when shooting for an album cover? 
Firstly, I have to say that working with an amazing art director was a huge advantage. Gary and I developed a very interesting concept; when we would shoot these musicians, we would want to get them away from their regular lives, girlfriends, managers, telephones…so we would plan an adventure. A good example is The Eagles first album cover. Gary planned to leave the Troubadour when they closed at 2am and drive through the night into the desert, get there at dawn to spend the day shooting photos. He would always say to me, "Just shoot anything that happens, film's the cheapest part." The only direction he gave besides that would be to back up and get the whole thing. 

So you were all about getting closer and Gary was more about the environmental aspect?
Yeah, with the CSN cover for instance, I was framing up the couch with the three guys and that looked perfect to me; Gary would say, "Back up, get the whole house." So I finally ended up backing up all the way across the street, and I guess he had in mind maybe wrapping it around the whole back and making an album cover that way. Of course, I tell people to move in, but he's looking at the blueprint you know…he's looking at the graphics. 

What's your perspective of music photography today compared to the 60's and 70's? 
Well…so many people have cameras now and that's a good thing and there's so many young photographers doing it. I will say, an awful lot of it seems to be live. Groups got really squirrelly around the 80's. There started to be more and more photographers at shows and some of them (in order to make money on the side) would produce a poster or something. The groups didn't like that; they wanted to control the images more, so there started to be contracts. It started to be you could only shoot three songs and in some cases they might even own all of your photographs. It's very inhibitive now, really. 

Shooting live music is fun, but it can get very monotonous. I won't put a live image in my portfolio unless it has all of the elements I'm looking for, regardless of who's in it. I always look for something special; something that stands out a bit, you know? 
Exactly. I always tell the younger generation that you don't just want to shoot them in the club on stage, because that's what everybody does. You want the one of a kind picture, something no one else has. One thing that worked really well for me was music videos. When someone does a video, hang out and take the still photos. It's a great opportunity to be there with them all day and you're the only one there. All groups need a group shot. 

You have a pretty extensive archive of Neil Young photographs, can you talk about your experience with him? 
Most of those were just incidental shots, it was just me hanging out with Neil. At the time, Gary and I would drive up from southern California to northern California and go to Neil's ranch. We'd go up there and hang out for a day or two; we would take a morning walk around the ranch and look at the cows, and we'd look at the barns, all the different things he had there. We'd be walking around just smoking a morning joint and I'd be taking pictures of the whole thing. They mainly got used for songbooks; in those days, songbooks came out partly because of Gary designing them. They might have ten or twelve photos in them, but eventually publishing companies got tired of paying for them and stopped putting photos in songbooks. A couple of those early Neil Young songbooks had a lot of my photos taken at the ranch. 

Can you tell me about the photo of Neil sitting in the woodie? I love that photograph. 

The one in the woodie was at Gary's house in Hollywood one day. Neil always loved old cars and he bought this old woody and drove it over to Gary's house. So while they were checking it out, I was photographing the whole thing. I happened to be at the rear of the car when he leaned over the seat to look at the back and I just took that picture (along with many others that day). 

How did you end up becoming the official photographer for Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock? 
John Phillips, who was in The Mamas & the Papas, was a friend of mine. He said, "Henry we’re having this big festival and I’m one of the producers…why don’t you come up and take photos?" So I became his photographer and of course I had to give them a lot of the pictures, which, unfortunately, I never saw again. I did hold on to some of them though. The same thing happened at Woodstock. About a month before Woodstock, Chip Monck called me and - he was the best stage and lighting manager in the business - he was the guy who had managed stages when we played concerts. I bumped into him all over the place and he called me that summer and said, "Henry, we’re having a huge music festival out here in a couple of weeks and you should come out." I said, "Well Chip…I don’t know those people, how am I gonna get a photo pass?" The next day Michael Lang called me and says, “Chip says we need you, so I’m sending you an airline ticket and 500 bucks.” That was it, I jumped on a plane and went out there. I spent two weeks photographing the building of the stages and campgrounds and then, suddenly, the festival happened. I was right there with an all access pass.

So where did these photos end up after you took them? 
The funny thing is, since I was the official photographer…I had to bring all of my pictures straight to LIFE magazine. They were going to do a special edition on Woodstock and the guy opened the boxes in the photo lab before I even looked in them, picked out about 200 photos he wanted to keep to consider for the magazine. They ended up using maybe half a dozen, but I never saw the rest again. I didn’t have my name stamped on them, so all of the best stuff I shot ended up being lost. I do have a lot; a couple of hundred slides and a bunch of proof sheets...negs, but not all of

Sorry to bring up such a painful memory for you, Henry. 
Haha! Hey you know, it's okay. I know they're somewhere and maybe someday they'll find their way back. 

Could you tell me a little bit about your experience at Woodstock? 
First of all, being there for two weeks when they built the stage…all the hippie carpenters on stage would have their shirts off getting a sun tan, sawing and hammering; and all the lovely hippie girls bringing lunch and drinks, working in the was was summer camp. Looking out from the stage, you saw the waving green alfalfa field as far as your eyes could see…it was just beautiful. The Hog Farm was making the campground and they had tee-pee's set up, it was just a constant outdoor party. I just wandered around photographing all of that, you know? Then one day there was about a hundred people sitting out in that field and I thought, "What the hell are those people doing there? Oh, I forgot…it's going to be a concert." 

Stay tuned for part two of my interview with photographer, Henry Diltz. 

Thanks to, Kiva at The Press House and Morrison Hotel Gallery