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August 12, 2009 4:42 PM

Eye, Media

Woodstock's Official Eyewitness

Henry Diltzphoto by Stephane Feugere Woodstock now as then is shaping up as one big media trip for Henry Diltz. Diltz, rock photographer supreme and owner of the fine-art photography Morrison Hotel galleries, has been on the phone more...

Henry Diltz
photo by Stephane Feugere
Woodstock now as then is shaping up as one big media trip for Henry Diltz.

Diltz, rock photographer supreme and owner of the fine-art photography Morrison Hotel galleries, has been on the phone more times than he can remember in the past two months, bombarded with calls from Japanese magazines, German documentary filmmakers, and eight book authors. "Now, the newspapers are calling me," said Diltz, 70, who was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair's official photographer by way of his friend, lighting director Chip Monck, whom he knew from his days playing banjo on the college circuit around three years earlier. "It all started with a phone call in my Laurel Canyon kitchen in 1969 from Chip Monck," Diltz recalled. "Chip said [Woodstock festival founder] Michael Lang needed me; he had talked to Lang. My job was to walk around and document. It was great fun."

Following one-and-a-half weeks of "idyllic summer days" that August spent photographing the design and construction of the Woodstock festival scene in the rolling green alfalfa fields of Sullivan County, N.Y., Diltz saw the crowds descend all at once. "A couple of days before the weekend, there were about 20 or 30 people who showed up; then there were a couple of hundred thousand on the sunny Friday afternoon to start the festival," recounted Diltz, who had played with Woodstock's opening act, Richie Havens, once on a folk music tour. (He'd also photographed the cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash's self-titled first album, shortly before the group's performance at Woodstock, their second-ever concert. Their first was in Chicago the night before.)

"It was just wonderful. We didn't realize how huge it was until someone brought a copy of The New York Times and we saw how huge the crowds were," Diltz added. "Plus, all the roads were jammed. I was onstage documenting the event. I couldn't see the full scope of the crowd. I was in the eye of the storm."
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