Woodstock Photographer Recalls Capturing Jimi Hendrix's Most Iconic Moment
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
October 31, 2022
Henry Diltz had a front row seat for some of rock's most iconic moments, and fortunately for us, he brought his camera to all of them.
Henry began his creative career as a folk musician, but his path began to change when he picked up his first camera for $20 at a second-hand store in Michigan.
He tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke that his formal training in his field started and ended with the instructions on a box of film. But as his skills as a photographer improved, his friends' careers began to take off.
"I would photograph David Crosby and Stephen Stills and Mama Cass and Neil Young while I was still a musician because it was a little overlap there," Henry recalls. "I always say I photographed all my neighbors in Laurel Canyon, and one-by-one they became famous, which was a happy accident."
In 1969, Henry was hired to shoot the Woodstock festival. He showed up weeks in advance to document construction of the stage and campgrounds, the arrival of the near half-a-million revelers and the performances.
Some of Henry's most ubiquitous photos are of Jimi Hendrix's performance on the final day of Woodstock (the fourth day of 'three days of peace & music').
"He's playing the 'Star-Spangled Banner' there Monday morning ... seven, eight o'clock," Henry recalls. "I mean, he was supposed to go on Sunday night to close the show, but they were so backed up he didn't get on there until dawn Monday morning.
He continues: "...[It was] spell binding... I was standing right behind an amp. The crowd of almost 500,000 people, [by that morning] was maybe I don't know — 50,000 in front of the stage. A lot of people left Sunday, Sunday night. So that hillside, which was green alfalfa a week before, and then 450,000 faces, was not just mud. A muddy field. And the sound from these huge speakers went out and bounced off that hillside, instead of absorbing the sound, it kind of reflected the sound. So it was really quite loud. ...It was a fun moment."
Watch Henry talk about more myth-making moments from his career via the player above!
You can see Henry's work on display at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Los Angeles, starting November 3. The specially curated 'Be Mused' exhibit is open through November 16.