Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 10 Oct 02 15:16
Joining us today is rock photographer Henry Diltz. Henry started out as a musician when he co-founded the Modern Folk Quartet. He's become a renowned photographer whose pictures have graced the covers of more than 200 record albums. He's taken photos of rock stars from Jimi to Jagger. His work has been published in myriad magazines, including Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Life. He's published two books of photos, "Shooting Stars" and "The Innocent Age." His work is available both through his online gallery and through his recently opened "meatspace" gallery in the heart of Manhattan's SOHO district. Henry's new CD ROM, "Under the Covers," has been described as "a virtual California Rock tour." It includes film clips, music, interviews and behind- the-scenes stories with the Doors, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and more. Leading the conversation with Henry is Chris Carroll, who graduated from Sarah Lawrence in late '85 and promptly wangled a job as Photo Editor at Spin Magazine. Along with writing record reviews, doing paste up (at a magazine without a single computer!), and going to clubs, he abused his position and assigned himself the job of photographing people he wanted to meet. Upon leaving Spin, he found himself with a photo portfolio chock full of rock stars and other ill adjusted bratty types. He continued to shoot in the same vein for much of the '80s and '90s. Around 1995, he got out of that trendy milieu and started shooting advertising and editorial of only slightly less demanding subjects: children. The skills he learned shooting entertainers applied equally well to the wee ones. The only difference is that you get to hire multiple kids, and when they get cranky, switch them out. Unfortunately, Chris finds himself unable to switch out his own two offspring, who are currently four and two, and quite the handful. He lives in Nyack with his writer wife Liz, two children, and Toast the dog. He paddles his home built wooden kayak on the Hudson whenever possible. Chris continues to shoot both children and adults while working on a book of essays. Though low man on the totem pole as a newly sworn volunteer firefighter, he still just flat out refuses to wear the Sparky the Fire Dog costume during Fire Safety Week.
Chris Carroll (marvy) Sat 12 Oct 02 08:20
Thanks for the intro, Cynthia, and welcome to the Well, Henry. In viewing your DVD I was really struck by your low key and low tech approach to shooting bands. Each vignette you present seems to be like, "then we went over to Joni's house and spent the day drinking coffee and taking pictures..." or "...and then Jim Morrison wanted Mexican food so we ate and I shot everyone while we enjoyed a relaxed and raucous meal". You even went camping for the weekend with America, shooting all the while. Your collaborator Gary Burden spent a lot of time in the DVD lamenting how little record companies wanted to spend on packaging back in the sixties, but now it seems that the package is all important, I can't imagine a giant multinational trusting a couple guys to go out to the desert and come back with an album cover. It seemed like such a bygone era you portrayed, but at the end of the DVD, we see you jump into a late model car with Burden, musician Steve Politz, and a guitar and head off into the desert for what looked like a weekend of fun and photos. How are you able to pull this off in the age of publicists, focus groups, and huge multinational corporate record companies?
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Mon 14 Oct 02 09:56
Good morning, Chris...finally got the ole mac working here and I am about to take a stab at answering your first question...
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Mon 14 Oct 02 12:30
So Chris...You asked me about the low tech, low key approach my partner Gary Burden and I utilized in making album covers. First of all, things WERE a lot lower tech in the '60s, and I was a musician taking photos as a hobby on the road as opposed to being a trained art school guy. My whole approach was just to look thru the little eye-hole on the camera, move around till it looked best to me and then push the button. Of course you had to set the correct time and f-stop, but they told you how to do that on the box the film came in: "bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4." I started photgraphing all my friends, who were mostly musicians anyway...meanwhile Gary was helping Mama Cass redesign her house. I bumped into him at a love-in where he asked if I wanted to help him do an album cover for Cass, which by now she had asked him to do. That was the start of our thing ( I hesitate to call it a "business" as it was so low key and natural.) We were usually "hired" by the musicians ( our friends) to do cover photos and we always approached it in a way that would be fun for them AND for us. We would plan an adventure, a trip somewhere that would just unfold naturally, and whatever happened I would just keep shooting pictures. When we got home we 'd have a slide show and look at all the pictures (more fun) and Gary would figure out the look of the package. At the end of our DVD where you see us heading out on a trip with Steve Poltz, we drove down to Mexico and hung out at Rosarita Beach drinking beer, smokin' it and having a good time. It's the finished product that the record company sees and that's all they care about...how we get it is OUR "business!"
"bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4" (chrys) Mon 14 Oct 02 23:52
TFTP Henry. >It's the finished product that the record company sees and that's >all they care about... And are they always happy? From the way you describe your approach, it sounds like a collaboration with the musician and there is a high degree of likelihood you'll get images that are mutually satisfying to the collaboration. But are they always satisfying to the record companies plans for promotion?
Chris Carroll (marvy) Tue 15 Oct 02 07:28
(TFTP=Thanks for the Pseud. Meaning <chrys> liked that phrase and made it her pseudonym in this conference...). And <chrys> asks an excellent question so I'll let Henry answer that before I jump in with more.
"bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4" (chrys) Tue 15 Oct 02 12:23
Just in case any one is looking for it: http://www.henrysgallery.com/
"bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4" (chrys) Tue 15 Oct 02 12:36
And while I am at it - model releases: Since these sessions are friendly and collaborative - how do you handle that moment when you need to whip out the Model Release and get them to sign? And what kind of Model Release do you use? (Personally, I wouldn't want to sign the typical model releases that are out there.) And where can I see this DVD? (I don't even watch TV, let alone have a DVD player. Any Wellperns out there want to have a Henry Diltz DVD party?) Can you tell I have lots of questions...? <grin>
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 15 Oct 02 12:47
(By the way, people who are reading this but don't have a WELL account can ask questions or add comments to this conversation by sending email to <email@example.com> )
Chris Carroll (marvy) Tue 15 Oct 02 13:38
Well, I never needed model releases until I started shooting stuff for commercial release. I sell lots of pictures of celebrities to magazines without a release. The pictures may only be used editorially, and the caption can't say "known drug user" or something like that. The main issue is probably who own the picures themselves. I'll let Henry answer that, but in my case, record companies often bought out the rights when I did the shoot. When I shot for magazines I kept the rights after first publication.
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Tue 15 Oct 02 14:33
Hi "chrys"...You wanted to know if the record companies were always happy with our work. Mostly they are. You're right, it is a collaboration with the musician(s), and they have to like what we do first of all, or we make changes till they do. Generally there is a manager involved somewhere in the mix. Most of the artists we work with have creative control written into their contract with the record co. or they wouldn't be using us, they would be working with the company art dept. instead. I would say that in every case so far the artists are happy with the pictures taken, its sometimes an element of the package design that has to be discussed or tweaked. Occasionally there might be addional photos taken as the project moves along creatively. Publicity and promotional images are decided on to go along with the whole package so it has a similar look or vibe. So, if the artist and manager are satisfied, the record co. is too. Question #2: model releases...I never do whip one out. I suppose if we incorporated models in the cover photos we would have to have something signed, but we almost never do. Question #3: Our DVD ("Under the Covers")...It is SUPPOSSED to be in most big CD/DVD stores, but you might have to ask for it...or, you can order it from my website ( henrysgallery.com ). I believe you can order it there as a video tape as well...but not in the stores Thanks for the meaty questions, chrys. I love your website. I see why you like Georgia O'Keeffe, shes one of my heroes as well. By the way, rock & roll photography is half of what I do. The other half is slide show photos, or, what I do for my own personal interest and project on the wall for my friends. These fall into many catagories including: trucks, cows, t-shirts, fire hydrants, peace signs ( 2 fingers ), flags ( there's a lot of them these days),tattoos, graffiti,hearts stars ,barns, animals, leaves on wet cement, practically anything that would look exciting projected big on the wall in a dark room full of friends.
Regime change in the USA! (sd) Tue 15 Oct 02 15:21
under the covers is terrific fun to watch. (wellpern DVD party in atlanta whenever your ready <chrys>) the saturate before using stories are a lot of fun, likewise your (pl) comments about the morrison hotel shoot and the lack of royalties you guys got from the hard rock cafe people.
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Tue 15 Oct 02 15:33
Here's an update to the question chrys asked about getting a video copy of our DVD...It turns out we aren't selling it on my website at the moment. The only way to get it in VIDEO form is to buy it at my gallery in the Soho area of NYC ( 76 Greene St ....between Spring & Broome ), or, call on the phone :212-941-8770 and they will send you one.
"bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4" (chrys) Tue 15 Oct 02 15:58
Oh man, Alan - I'm not planning any trips to Atlanta in the near term. I was kinda hoping for something closer to home. But thanks for the offer! Henry, thanks for taking time with my questions! (And thx for peeking at my website too.) I can see why your subjects are happy - your work never seems 'professional' in that cold, distance, slick manner of some industry photographers. The images appear just as you describe the sessions: as if they come out of comfortable conversation and comraderie. As a result they feel 'personal', in several cases you seem to even reveal some of the private life - a glimpse of a barn, a back porch, etc. Do you find yourself feeling a need to take care to protect their privacy, yet retain the intimate quality of the photos? And Chris - please don't hold back on your questions - I'll feel guilty about dominating the conversation!
"bright sun 250th @ f8" or "deep shade 125th @ f4" (chrys) Tue 15 Oct 02 15:59
And Henry - thanks for the pointers regarding the DVD - what is the difference between the DVD and the CD rom? Is it the same content?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 Oct 02 17:08
Henry, one thing that grabbed me in 'Under the Covers' was that shot of y ou with your meticulous collection of notebooks... could you say something about those? You looked super-organized in that shot!
Chris Carroll (marvy) Tue 15 Oct 02 17:45
I'm not holding back, I'm just giving lil ol Henry there a chance to catch up (and why work when your peeps are doing a fine job without you?).
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Wed 16 Oct 02 18:55
In regard to protecting the privacy of subjects I photograph(ed): In the earlier days ( 60s&70s) most of these people were not that well known and it was all so laid back that privacy was not an issue. Also, many subjects were personal friends of mine from my days as a fellow musician and so it never felt like I was invading their space as a stranger. In all cases though, I would hope to exercise normal discretion. I'm going to dinner now with my old friend and record producer, Erik Jacobsen. I'll answer other questions as soon as I return.
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Wed 16 Oct 02 21:40
As far as the content of the DVD vs CDRom, they are both drawn from the same sources...all the album covers we made, but they are different in the way it's offered. The CDRom we made first and it is interactive, which means you can navigate...pick out on a map where you want to go and what stories you want to hear. The CDRom also has hundreds & hundreds of photos to illustrate the stories, bios, and an art gallery. It takes about 13 hours to navgate the whole thing The DVD is like a 94min television special with music and interviews and home movies. You don't have to do anything but sit back and laugh.
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Wed 16 Oct 02 22:16
About the collection of note books and being super organized...Lets see...I'm a virgo which means list making and note taking. I'm organized in catagories. I started keeping a daily journal in 1969 to remember which days I took which photos. I still do today, altho they are probably more socially oriented than photographically. I am fascinated by other people's journals and have a big collection of them. Similarly, I am fascinated by other people...and that is a big part of photographing them.
Chris Carroll (marvy) Thu 17 Oct 02 05:09
On the DVD Gary Burden admits to having hired a photographer "who can take sharp pictures" for Joni Mitchell's Blue (to great laughter all around). That begged the question of wether either of you guys ever worked with anyone else. You were clearly a team, how often did you work with other designers/art directors?
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Thu 17 Oct 02 12:47
"Sharp Pictures" ha ha ha ...Well most of my pictures are sharp, but in a photo shoot of 20 or 30 rolls theres bound to be a few on the soft side. I don't use an auto focus camera, I use Nikon Fm's, and sometimes when stuff is happening you go for shots that you hope turn out but there's not always time to do a careful focus...plus the fact that often I am shooting in low light @ f 1.4, or f 2 at a 60th. So there are always some outtakes and in a few cases those are the very ones Gary wants to use...probably because those kind of grab shots are the most candid. I guess we have built up a mythology of those situations and that's what we joke about. For Joni's "Blue" cover there was an already existing picture that Joel Bernstein had taken. Joel is a pal of Joni and Graham Nash and Neil Young and a good friend of ours and a really good photographer who has done a number of covers for those artists. Gary likes to threaten me ( in a joking manner ) by saying he'll get Joel to take pictures when I'm not cooperating... and he probably would except that Joel lives in San Francisco and we do most of our work in LA. As far as my working with other art directors, I do from time to time if I'm asked, but it's never as artistically satisfying as collaberating with Gary Burden. Last year I did a Dr. John cover with my friend Stanley Moss in Portland, and this year Gary and I have done a Timothy B Schmit package and one for a new great band called "Feel" on Curb Records.
Chris Carroll (marvy) Thu 17 Oct 02 13:30
I haven't shot with 35mm cameras in years, but when I hear you say "f 1.4" I'm jealous as can be (my Mamiya 6x7s open up to /4 or /2.8. For those of you following along at home, that means that Henry's cameras allow him to shoot in much dimmer situations that a lot of newer, higher tech cameras. Henry, have you ever tried larger formats, or have you always been happy with the advantages of 35mm manual cameras?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 17 Oct 02 15:36
And a kinda-related question: do you shoot digital? When Peter Simon was here, I recall he said he's gone totally digital, does his printing from a computer, not a darkroom, these days.
Henry Diltz (henrydiltz) Thu 17 Oct 02 17:12
As to larger formats, I've borrowed 2 1/4 cameras from friends a few times. In one view finder the image was backwards which totally threw me. I'm fascinated by the square format ( esp for use on album or CD covers), but it's a whole different way of framing when one is used to seeing in the 35mm rectangle. I guess the bottom line for me is I've never owned anything but a 35mm...and also the fact that I am primarily interested in projecting slides. That kind of segues into the question about digital. I think the whole digital world of possibities is amazing...some photogs even bring a lap top to concerts and send their photos out into the world before they even leave the building...but there's no darn slides to show and that blows it for me. I know it's possible to output some kind of transparency from digital files but...my whole sorting and archiving system is geared to slides, so, for the moment I'm sticking to what I know.
Chris Carroll (marvy) Thu 17 Oct 02 17:14
Slideshow is such a fun concept, and I haven't been to one in years, nay, decades. And I LIKE the backwards image in my 2 1/4! Helps me frame better pictures, and is only really a problem when doing a tracking image. But I've been doing it so long even that isn't so bad.
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