Trending: They Photographed Woodstock

By David Schonauer   Tuesday August 20, 2019

That July, men walked on the moon.

Just a few weeks later came the Manson Family murders in L.A.

And a few days after that came Woodstock, officially billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music.”

Yes, 1969 was a year to remember. If you could.

Fifty years on, the world is marking the anniversary of the music festival that unfolded amid rain and love and psychedelics on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. The New York Times, for instance, recently featured Carlos Santana’s recollections of hallucinating through one of the most memorable sets at the festival — his own — thanks to mescaline he got from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

It was a momentous event in a momentous time, and it was documented by a number of photographers. Time magazine recently talked with several of them — Baron Wolman, Ron Frem, Barry Z. Levine, Elliott Landy and Burk Uzzle — about their experience and about the pictures they shot that still move them.

“Walking to Woodstock,” Baron Wolman

Wolman, who is now a Getty Images contributor and was Rolling Stone magazine’s chief photographer, recalled shooting an image that came to be known as “Walking to Woodstock" (above).

“All summer long, my friend, the acclaimed photographer Jim Marshall, and I had been shotgun riders as we traversed the country photographing a variety of music festivals. Woodstock trumped them all,” Wolman noted. “When I look at my photograph, 'Walking to Woodstock,' I see young people walking together to follow a shared dream, together.”

Concert-goers sit on VW bus, by Ron Frem

“Going to Woodstock seemed like a fun way to spend my day off,” said AP contributor Ron Frem. After telling his editor that traffic jams were preventing him from getting to the concert, Frem was helicoptered in. “One of my favorite photos is of two ‘hippies’ sitting on top of a decorated Volkswagen bus,” he says. “I was able to restore the print from a damaged original transparency that had been lost for a long time before being discovered in the glove compartment of my vehicle (at that time, a later model Volkswagen bus).”

Want more pictures of Woodstock? Through Labor Day, The Morrison Hotel Gallery is featuring the exhibition “Woodstock: 3 Days That Lasted 50 Years” in its New York, Los Angeles, and Maui locations. The exhibition features pictures by photographers Ellliott Landy, Ken Regan, Amalie R. Rothschild, and Henry Diltz, who was the official photographer of the event. 

 Janis Joplin by Henry Diltz

Diltz, whose photograph of Janis Joplin is one of the standouts from Woodstock, would go on to become the co-owner of the Morrison Hotel Gallery. Recently he recalled photographing Woodstock in a six-minute video interview created by director Scott Hanson for Keeper.

As Diltz recalls in the video, he became the official Woodstock photographer after he was recommended to the festival’s organizers by a lighting director who was working there. He got to the festival site two weeks prior to the event, not knowing what to expect. It was, he says, “like a summer camp.”

He adds that he doesn’t think he was paid for the job. But he did get to keep all his photos.

Swami Satchidananda’s invocation, by Mark Goff

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Public Radio reveals some previously unknown images of Woodstock. They came to light when New York artist Nick Clemente went in search of photos of the festival’s opening ceremonies, with Swami Sachchidanand performing an invocation. Clemente found a image of the moment online, but the photographer’s name was missing. Months of research led Clemente to Mark Goff, now deceased, who was 22 when he went to Woodstock with a camera. Goff stashed a treasure trove of Woodstock images in his Milwaukee home.

USA Today has more on Goff.


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