Viewing Rock 'n' Roll History from Behind the Lens

Morrison Hotel Gallery kicks off its tour featuring Pattie Boyd and Henry Diltz

In 1968 Pattie Boyd photographed the quiet Beatle relaxing in India at the tail end of the group’s sojourn to study meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “While the other Beatles went back to London to start the beginning of their Apple empire, George and I went to Madras for a week’s relaxation,” Boyd says. “I think this was the last time that I saw him looking so calm.”© Pattie Boyd/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Pattie Boyd’s “Rose Garden” self-portrait with George Harrison has become her signature image among fans and collectors. “This was a photo that I was not going to even show because I thought it was too personal,” Boyd says. “I put the camera on a tripod, and I was really photographing the roses, but I needed figures in front. George and I stood there and waited so long for the shutter to go that George got bored looking at the lens, so he was looking away. But I think he looks very beautiful.” Not to mention Pattie, looking like a model and a muse.© Pattie Boyd/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Pattie Boyd’s 1974 shot of Eric Clapton, “Another Hotel Room,” was made during her first tour with the guitar virtuoso after he won her away from buddy George Harrison in one of rock’s legendary love triangles. “It’s an unknown hotel in an unknown city,” Boyd says, “but I particularly like the hideous red frame of the picture on the wall matching the sofa.”© Pattie Boyd/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
In 1985, Pattie Boyd shot Mick Jagger (another of her would-be suitors) visiting Eric Clapton on the eve of Live Aid in Philadelphia. The candid photo is now one of Boyd’s limited-edition prints that can be purchased from the Morrison Hotel Gallery site for thousands of dollars.© Pattie Boyd/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Henry Diltz made the portrait of Crosby, Stills & Nash that became the cover of their debut album when the trio first united. “They hadn't named themselves yet,” Diltz says. “Within a couple of days they decided on the name. We got the photos back and they said, ‘This would be great, but we're in the wrong order.’” When they returned for a reshoot, the house had been torn down. “We pulled up: ‘Where's the house?’” Diltz recalls. “We talked about flipping the negative, but then Stephen would be holding the guitar backwards—and that would’ve been a huge talking point for years.”© Henry Diltz/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
A 1970s photo shoot with James Taylor produced the Sweet Baby James album cover, which was "a total accident," says Henry Diltz. "I was taking black-and-white publicity photos, but when I saw James leaning on that post, I thought, 'I've got to take this in color so I can show it in my slide show.' In those days, publicity photos were black and white, because newspapers couldn't print color. They chose the color shot for the album cover."© Henry Diltz/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Henry Diltz captured this on-the-tarmac scene of Keith Richards during a 1979 American tour with Ronnie Wood’s group New Barbarians. “I got to hang out constantly for three weeks on their plane, in their limos, in their hotels and dressing rooms, shooting photos all the while,” Diltz recalls. “It was just like a Stones tour except that Mick wasn’t there, so there was a certain looseness and freedom because the boss was absent.”© Henry Diltz/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Henry Diltz caught an atmospheric shot of Ray Charles playing piano in 1980. “In the ‘80s somebody said to me, ‘You must have quite an archive.’ And I said, ‘Archive, that sounds too professional! I do have a lot of boxes full of negatives and slides,’” Diltz says. “But later I thought, Holy cow—I do have this history that I've been able to document. That kind of caught me by surprise.”© Henry Diltz/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
This portrait of Joni Mitchell by Graham Nash predates the couple's breakup at the end of 1969. "That's Joni listening to Clouds," Nash recalls. "She was listening to an acetate to make sure everything was right. Even though I was living with Joni, I didn't want her to know why I was taking the image. I'm actually shooting through one of those kitchen table chairs that have a hole in the top where you put your hand in to lift the chair."© Graham Nash/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Graham Nash caught this image of David Crosby in 1987, after the former Byrds singer had cleaned up (thanks to a Texas jail stint) and rejoined his CSNY bandmates to record the reunion album American Dream.© Graham Nash/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Graham Nash shot a pensive Neil Young in Studio City, CA, when the singer-songwriter was starting to work with Crosby Stills & Nash while also recording his own album After the Gold Rush. Nash recently joked to Mojo that adding Young was "was like lobbing a hand grenade in a vacuum," and the CSNY quartet has had a tenuous on-again-off-again relationship over five decades.© Graham Nash/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Stephen Stills was shot by bandmate Graham Nash during the recording of CSNY's Deja Vu album. "I've always carried a camera around," Nash says, "but I never shared my images except with close friends." That is, until he started showing his rock 'n' roll photographs in the 1980s. Nash also pioneered large-scale digital Iris printing with Nash Editions, founded in 1991 with partner Mac Holbert.© Graham Nash/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Rock lensman Joel Bernstein says this portrait launched his career—he was 17 years old. “I took some pictures of Joni Mitchell playing in clubs and I gave her this print," he recalls. "She said, ‘That's the best picture of me anyone's ever taken. Would you be my photographer?’ And I said, ‘Of course!’” Shot with available light, the image crystallized Bernstein’s approach: “You're trying to bring out some inner quality of them that's reflected in their face.”© Joel Bernstein/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
This Joel Bernstein image became the cover shot for Neil Young's album After the Gold Rush. "I was walking with Graham and Neil and I saw this small woman walking toward us, very bright-eyed but hunched over from age," he recalls. "For some reason I wanted to get a shot of her passing Neil." Bernstein cropped out Nash in the darkroom. "I had focused just past Neil, between her and the wall, so Neil was a little soft, and that bothered me. So I thought, I'll solarize it." Among many other prints, he showed the modified image to Young. "Neil went through the pile and he stopped at that shot and said, 'That's my album cover.'"© Joel Bernstein/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Joel Bernstein’s shot of Bruce Springsteen on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, NJ, was on the cover of the Boss’s 1980 single “Hungry Heart.” “A woman recently contacted me by email and said, ‘I have reason to believe I was the girl in the phone booth,’” Bernstein says. “I had the shot framed up and she didn’t see us, and did a quarter circle around the booth and stayed on the bike and dialed the phone. She had no idea we were there.” The anonymous woman later asked, “I didn't ruin your shot, did I?” Bernstein replied, “No, you actually made it!”© Joel Bernstein/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery
Joel Bernstein caught this behind-the-stage view during Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 1974 tour, and it was chosen for the cover of the CSNY 1974 box set (released in 2014), which Bernstein assembled with Graham Nash. "For the viewer who is not going to ever get to be where you are standing you're using your skill set as a photographer to transmit a sense of what it's like," Bernstein says. "It's not about you—it's about them."© Joel Bernstein/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery

When Pattie Boyd got her first serious camera—a Nikon F gifted by her husband—she didn’t expect to be using it to document cultural history. “I just thought I was shooting my friends,” she says. “Of course they were really great models. Can you imagine? Terrific guys. But I had no idea of the future at all.” Those photogenic friends included the Beatles at the height of their fame, as well as many other players in the rock-royalty circles they navigated.

Boyd’s aforementioned husband, George Harrison, met her on the set of “A Hard Day’s Night” (she had a part as a schoolgirl fan) and after a whirlwind romance they married in 1966. Boyd, who was a model at the time, says that meeting Harrison took her life in an entirely different direction.

Further surprises awaited—including Boyd’s second marriage to Eric Clapton (following one of rock’s most fabled love triangles; cue “Layla”) and her own photography career. “It was an exciting sort of train that chugs along,” she says of her saga, “with lots of stories, lots of photographs, lots of funny, amusing things.”

All that is part of what Boyd now shares in a traveling stage talk and slide-show presentation with her friend Henry Diltz—a legendary rock photographer himself—called Behind the Lens, which travels through 13 cities from San Francisco to Atlanta, March 23–April 19. A special one-off event, An Evening with Bernstein, Diltz & Nash, will take place March 30 at Largo in LA.

A 1970s photo shoot with James Taylor produced the Sweet Baby James album cover, which was "a total accident," says Henry Diltz. "I was taking black-and-white publicity photos, but when I saw James leaning on that post, I thought, 'I've got to take this in color so I can show it in my slide show.' In those days, publicity photos were black and white, because newspapers couldn't print color. They chose the color shot for the album cover."© Henry Diltz/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery

In the rock-photo world, Diltz also had a "being there" beginning. Recently honored with the 2015 Lucie Award for Achievement In Music Photography, Diltz started out as a banjo player in the Modern Folk Quartet in the early 1960s. "I was happily a musician, and I picked up a second-hand camera on tour with all my friends in the group," he recalls. "We spent a couple of weeks on our way back to LA from Michigan shooting photos of each other, having a shoot-out."

By the mid-’60s Diltz was based in Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon, where he took up a habit of showing his Kodachrome slide images to friends at parties. “We had all our hippie friends over, and when that first slide hit the wall, eight feet wide, glowing in color, it just blew my mind,” he says. “This is like being there again! So I thought, I'm going to take more photos, and with every picture I would think, ‘This could look good on the wall.’”

Soon Diltz’s shots of his musical friends found their way onto album covers, publicity photos, and posters. “That was kind of an accident,” he says. “I was taking pictures of my friends and they started using them.”

Being a fellow musician gave Diltz an in. “I wasn't there on a photo shoot: ‘Oh here's the photographer, stop everything and pose,’” he explains. “I got to hang out in an informal way.”

This candid access is what makes Behind the Lens a compelling draw for rock fans.

Rock lensman Joel Bernstein says this portrait launched his career—he was 17 years old. “I took some pictures of Joni Mitchell playing in clubs and I gave her this print," he recalls. "She said, ‘That's the best picture of me anyone's ever taken. Would you be my photographer?’ And I said, ‘Of course!’” Shot with available light, the image crystallized Bernstein’s approach: “You're trying to bring out some inner quality of them that's reflected in their face.”© Joel Bernstein/courtesy Morrison Hotel Gallery

“These photographers were witnesses to history, and they were so close to their subjects that they documented it beautifully,” says Peter Blachley, co-owner of the Morrison Hotel Gallery and director of the touring slide-show series. “You get the wonderful stories behind all of these photographs.”

Blachley hopes to continue the series with other rock-photo legends. For the initial run (which started with sold-out shows in New York, Chicago, Nashville, and Fall Rivers, MA, in 2015) he chose Diltz because of his photo catalog and slide-show expertise and Boyd for her charisma and fan appeal. “They each come out and talk for an hour,” Blachley says. “It’s a complete evening of entertainment.”

The March 30 companion show to the Diltz-Boyd series—An Evening with Bernstein, Diltz & Nash—joins Diltz with rock photographer Joel Bernstein and singer-shooter Graham Nash (reviving a similar show they did in 2015). "We all three come out and it's a round-robin thing," Diltz says. "We talk about each other's photos."

Bernstein shares a rich history with Diltz and Nash as a chronicler of rock 'n' roll. “We each present 20 photos, and they’re in chronological order, starting around 1966, the day Henry met Graham,” he says. “I’m ten years younger so I come in a little later, with a photo of me by Henry: Here’s this 18-year-old kid.”

Indeed, Bernstein started his photo career as a high-school student shooting Joni Mitchell and her friends in the California rock scene. He went on to be an archivist for Neil Young, a guitar tech for Prince and a portraitist of rockers ranging from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen.

“You are a fly on the wall,” Bernstein says of his photographic MO. “You disappear and you're focused on getting the shot, so that later, viewers of your images can see what it was like to be there.”

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