Henry Diltz has had a long, storied career in rock photography, beginning with his post as the official photographer for Woodstock. He found his calling by working as a folk musician in the '60s and got to know musicians on a personal level before he struck out as a full-time photographer. During the '60s and '70s, he shot candid black-and-white photos of everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa. More recently, he worked as a photographer on the short-lived Henry Rollins show on the Independent Film Channel. And tonight, his exhibition of intimate photos of The Doors debuts at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood, CA. We interviewed the seasoned photographer via e-mail about his work, and his answers are below. See more images on Diltz's website.
HP: How does your experience as a musician affect your photos? Does it give you a better insight into the creative process?
HD: The fact that I was a musician before I became a photographer gave me a better insight into how to hang out with musicians. There's a lot of hanging out backstage, in recording studios, on tour buses and in airports. This was something that was second nature to me and so I knew how to lay back and not be so anxious to get the photo right away. This made it possible for me to take more candid photos in the moments that really mattered. Also, I was right at home in all the situations musicians find themselves in so I was better able to assimilate and know what to expect. Being low key was a good way to be because nobody likes a pushy photographer.
HP: What's the weirdest experience you've had with The Doors?
HD: It was pretty weird when we went to the Morrison Hotel in downtown LA to photograph their album cover and the guy behind the desk wouldn't let us take any pictures. As we walked outside, I noticed through the window that the guy left his desk and got in the elevator. I said, "Quick! Run in there and get behind the window!" I shot one roll of film and we were out of there. Jim said, "Let's go get a drink." So we jumped in our Volkswagen van and drove a few blocks to Skid Row where we found a bar called The Hard Rock Cafe. We put a picture of it on the back of the album cover and soon The Doors got a call from England asking if they could use that name for a cafe they were opening in London. So, by having that after-photo beer, we helped name the international Hard Rock Cafe empire.
HP: What's a photo you wish you would have taken?
HD: I photographed three of The Beatles separately but never the whole band together. I wish I had been able to photograph John and I wish I had taken the picture Robert Freeman took of them with their overcoat collars up in the autumn leaves. All in all though, I am happy with the pictures I have taken in my life as they all remind me of things I saw, people I knew and moments I enjoyed.
by Kathleen Massara
photos by: Henry Diltz