Henry Diltz is a music photographer who has shot more than 250 album covers and thousands of publicity shots in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including the iconic Morrison Hotel cover for The Doors. Other artists, whose fly-on-the-wall style portraits he’s known for, include musical legends such as the Eagles, Neil Young, Crosby Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, America, Steppenwolf, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, The Monkees and David Cassidy. He was the official photographer at the Woodstock festival in August 1969. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, LIFE, People, Rolling Stone, High Times and Billboard.
A popular musician in the 1960s, Diltz never set out to take some of the most iconic photos of our era – it just happened. Fresh from a globetrotting childhood, he attended colleges in Munich, West Point and Honolulu, where he became known as a musician and founding member of the Modern Folk Quartet. Phil Spector produced one of their last singles. This led to many friendships with emerging recording artists in the California rock communities of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Immersed in this world, he accidentally discovered a passion for photography, which turned into an obsession and, later, occupation. His gift did not go unnoticed by musician-friends, whom Diltz documented as he hung out in the scene. “I only wanted to remember exactly what I saw,” he says. “It was all about capturing images and moments, filling the frame with the essence of what I saw.”
Diltz’s professional career began with the serendipitous $100 sale of a single shot of the Buffalo Springfield in 1966. In a memorable six-year partnership with design legend Gary Burden, the list of album covers and artists he shot grew to read like a “Who’s Who” of rock ‘n’ roll history. Musicians liked him for the natural quality of his photos and because he was not part of the Establishment press. His work graced magazines like Rolling Stone and included a LIFE cover of Paul and Linda McCartney in April 1971. Diltz’s photos are distinguished by a lyrical sense of composition that actor Harrison Ford once referred to as “Henry’s framing Jones.” There’s an intuitive, naturalistic luminosity that only available light - which he prefers - can deliver. Whether working in conventional film or digital images, he always finds the perfect balance of illumination, color and reportage. Henry and his images are such fixtures in rock culture, he is interviewed regularly and often for books, articles and documentaries about the era and speaks regularly on college campuses.
Today, his extensive archive is handled by Henry Diltz Photography. He continues to document the music scene from his base in Southern California. Diltz is a partner in, and is exclusively published and represented by, the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which specializes in fine-art rock photography. “I am amazed at the accumulation of images that has resulted, simply by doing what I love to do, day after day after day,” he says. “It’s a result of being with countless people over the years, waiting at the sidelines for the moment to happen. Photography has been my passport, and I have arrived in the present, where I have always been, camera in hand. There! That says it best for me!”