Music Photographer Henry Diltz: A Lifetime of Painted & ‘Unpainted Faces’

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Henry Diltz checks out the pop-up Morrison Hotel Gallery next to the old Morrison Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles during the 2020 "Day of the Doors" celebration on January 4. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

In October 2011, renowned music photographer and 2020 International Photography Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement honoree Henry Diltz and his partners at the Morrison Hotel Gallery published a book of his favorite black and white photos titled “Unpainted Faces,” in association with archival media producers Rare Cool Stuff Unltd.

The book features more than 150 iconic images from the ’60s-to-’90s Diltz shot of fellow musicians and friends in Laurel Canyon, onstage at Monterey Pop, all three Woodstock festivals, and so much more.

Henry Diltz, May 1997.
A man and his Canon, May 1997. Photo: © Henry Diltz-Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

As a friend and co-conspirator since 1978 (introduced by author Anthony Fawcett) and an RCS principal since 2010, this reporter was honored to be asked by Henry to write the foreword and serve as editorial director for “Unpainted Faces,” working with RCS partner Geoff Gans and associate Rachel Gutek, both Grammy-nominated graphic designers.

My task involved interviewing Henry at length, soaking up his masterfully told stories and writing all the new text. He had already penned captions for the images for an early iteration of the book published only in Japan, and for about a minute, in 1991. That edition had sold out immediately and “Unpainted Faces” remained unpublished anywhere until 2011.

The first U.S. edition, published in hardcover and available worldwide via the Morrison Hotel Gallery, quickly sold out. So did a later soft-cover edition. At this writing, late October 2020, the book remains out of print.

Fortunately, plans are in the works for another soft-cover edition of “Unpainted Faces” to be published soon, Diltz confirmed then.

He added that anyone interested in purchasing a copy should send a note now to MHG (address email to Paige Califano at paige@morrisonhotelgallery.com); it might help move those plans a little faster.

Unpainted Faces by Henry Diltz

Meanwhile, gallery-quality fine-art prints of nearly all the images in this story are available at the Morrison Hotel Gallery website, and by special appointment in person at the MHG galleries in New York (SoHo), Maui (Fleetwood’s General Store, Lahaina) and Los Angeles (Sunset Marquis, West Hollywood).

And as a reminder/preview, we’re presenting the complete, original (and non-updated) 2011 text from “Unpainted Faces” here, along with a sampling of images from the book and others by special arrangement with Diltz and with our eternal gratitude to him, Henry Diltz Photography, and the Morrison Hotel Gallery.

At the end of the story, you’ll also find a few extra video goodies, including a three-part “Unpainted Faces” slide show presentation from 2011 and a tour of Henry’s Laurel Canyon exhibit at the Grammy Museum in 2014.

For Henry Diltz, a much-loved friend of the famous, the infamous, and the almost-famous – which means just about everyone – the story begins and ends here:

“To this day I am a big fan of letting the universe decide what happens, although I realize being a musician allowed me the freedom to have that attitude. Sometimes, if you don’t get in your own way, life will unfold as you never imagined.” — Henry DiltZ

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Henry Diltz on the inside looking out instead of from behind the lens at the fourth “Day of the Doors” event, Morrison Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 4, 2020, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” album. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

 

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The Mamas & Papas tune up their pipes backstage before a concert at the Hollywood Bowl on August 18, 1967. Photo: © Henry Diltz-Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

‘Unpainted Faces’: Foreword (2011)

“Unpainted Faces,” so named because the images are shot in black and white and almost all in natural light without makeup, is a rare collection of images capturing intimate, unguarded moments in the private lives of famous people, many of whom happened to be the photographer’s friends.

You may not know Henry Diltz by name (unless you’re a nut for reading album credits), but you are no doubt familiar with many of his friends and have seen his images of them published around the world since the mid-1960s in books, magazines, newspapers and eventually on DVD and the Web.

His portfolio is beyond impressive. Start with the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 and the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August 1969.

The Who making their first major debut American appearance in June 1967 at The Monterey International Pop Music Festival. Henry Diltz: “We had all heard about The Who smashing their instruments at the end of their show but no one in the U.S. had ever seen it until this moment. The guy on the left is the sound engineer trying to rescue the expensive microphones.” Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

Diltz was one of the official photographers at Monterey (Jim Marshall being another) because the organizers (mainly John Phillips of The Mamas & Papas and their producer Lou Adler) were already good friends who knew Diltz had the photographic eye and that he knew many of the performers, too.

By the time we all got to Woodstock two years later, Diltz was the first choice as still photographer for festival producers Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld and Chip Monck.

Richie Havens opens the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August 1969, Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

Diltz is perhaps best known for the 250-plus album covers he shot, including The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe,” James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James,” a pair for The Mamas & Papas, Jackson Browne’s first, Eagles’ debut and “Desperado,” six for the group America, and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut.

An outtake from the Crosby, Stills & Nash “couch” session in West Hollywood, February 13, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

When you throw in photo sessions with hundreds more artists including The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Monkees, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass Elliot, Linda Ronstadt, Richard Harris, The Turtles, Steppenwolf, Richard Pryor, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney & Wings, Garth Brooks and Bruce Springsteen…you get the picture.

Henry Diltz with Paul and Linda McCartney and family in Malibu, April 5, 1971. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

Many of his images of those artists and events – among hundreds more he’s captured from the mid-1960s to the present – are so famous, so iconic, they approach the star-power of their subjects.

But that was never Diltz’s intent. Nor was personal fame as a photographer. His first passion was music, and his first notoriety came as a folk banjo-picker.

Born in America’s heartland but raised in New York and exotic overseas locales while moving around with his State Department-employed stepdad, Henry co-founded The Modern Folk Quartet with some friends in Hawaii in 1961.

MFQ with Phil Spector at Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood, October 1965: Cyrus Faryar, Jerry Yester, Chip Douglas, Phil Spector and Henry Diltz. Photo by Robert W. Young.

Five years later, he picked up a camera and started shooting his MFQ bandmates and various friends just as a goof to kill time on the road. His hobby soon overtook his musical career and turned into the pursuit of a lifetime. (See his bio later in the book.)

It was just a happy coincidence that around the same time, a large number of his friends, confidantes and co-conspirators happened to be famous (or almost-famous) musicians, actors or comedians who were not always comfortable with fame.

Even as they came to be public and increasingly popular performers, many of Diltz’s friends were notoriously reclusive. When it came to interviews and photo shoots they were especially wary of straight media and even the rock press for one reason or another.

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Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash in a limo on their way to Big Bear, February 17, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

To protect their privacy, and better manage their visual images, these artists often hired personal managers and public relations reps whose job descriptions included just saying “No!” to requests from the press.

What has always been Henry’s advantage is that he was not, and has never been, “the press.” As a fellow musician who was in a popular group that toured the country and who even played on Phil Spector sessions, he was one of their own.

Diltz was a neighbor, too; for years he lived on Lookout Mountain Avenue in Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon, a rustic refuge minutes away from the glitz of the Sunset Strip, with people like Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell living just a few curves up or down the hill.

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Joni Mitchell at the window of her “very fine house” in Laurel Canyon, September 29, 1970. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

But way beyond Henry’s musical chops, session credits and proximity, his affable, easy-going unpretentiousness, disarmingly charming, down-to-earth sense of humor, and discretion made his famous media-shy friends feel comfortable with him around, camera or no camera.

Henry was their “buddy,” just another “member of the rock ’n’ roll family,” as journalist Saburo Kawamoto wrote in his foreword to the only previous publication of this book, in Japan under the title “The Innocent Age” in 1991.

Joni Mitchell, David Crosby and Eric Clapton at Cass Elliot’s house on Clapton’s first visit to Laurel Canyon, February 25, 1968. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

These peer friendships meant Diltz earned and enjoyed unprecedented access to the artists. They trusted and allowed him to capture private moments off-stage that few other mortals would ever experience, and with such natural, backyard-BBQ intimacy that when fans eventually did see his photos, the rock stars that loomed so large and intimidating onstage instantly appeared more life-sized, real, human, accessible.

Perhaps the artists didn’t feel the need to do much press at least in part because Diltz’s photos spoke volumes for them. His images were more than mere snapshots. They have a cinematic quality, illustrating a story. Those pictures said just about everything a singer-songwriter thought necessary to say in a visual medium, that they hadn’t already expressed through their very personal songs.

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Jackson Browne (left) leads a sing-along at Texas artist Boyd Elder’s ‘Chingadero Show’ in Venice, California, with Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliot, David Geffen, Ned Doheny, and more, including the original Eagles lineup playing what Elder claimed was the band’s first public gig, on April 2, 1972. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

If the artists he photographed produced the signature California singer-songwriter sound, Henry Diltz provided many of the associated visuals so indelibly etched in our minds. As part of that rock ‘n’ roll family Kawamoto referred to, Henry helped document one of the most significant eras of popular music in the last century.

Many of the photographs presented in “Unpainted Faces” have never been published outside Japan, so they offer fresh new perspectives on familiar subjects in the full flame of youth. It’s an insider’s history in glorious black and white.

Now, “Unpainted Faces” is available for the first time in the United States through Morrison Hotel Publishing, by special arrangement with archival producers Rare Cool Stuff Unltd.

Individually remarkable, the images are a stunning collection.


 

On October 20, 1969, The Rolling Stones rented Peter Tork’s house in Laurel Canyon a few months after Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young rented it to rehearse for Woodstock. A music publisher sent Henry Diltz up there one afternoon to take a group shot, but the Stones were all asleep. Eventually, they woke up and had breakfast just before night fell, making it too dark to take the picture. [Henry didn’t use flash then.] Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

‘Unpainted Faces’ 2011 Q&A

In late spring 2011, Henry Diltz got together with a longtime friend who happens to be a writer to talk about “Unpainted Faces,” the fascinating period and genre of popular music most of the images represent, and how the book almost never came to be. Henry, master storyteller that he is, did most of the talking, which was perfect. — SKP

“People sometimes refer to me as a ‘rock ‘n’ roll photographer, but ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ is a very generic term. I wouldn’t call Joni Mitchell or Crosby, Stills & Nash or James Taylor ‘rock ‘n’ roll.’ Yet CSN and CSN with Neil Young certainly played rock ‘n’ roll, they could certainly rock out. The best I can describe it is ‘American folk-rock-pop singer-songwriter stuff.’

“Most of the people in ‘Unpainted Faces’ are these American singer-songwriters, and it all came from folk music. When I was in the Modern Folk Quartet, we sang ‘songs of the folk.’ Nobody wrote new ones. They’d all been written 100 years ago – songs about people from the mountains or cowboys or sailors – and passed along. So we never sang anything we wrote. Like The Kingston Trio, the leading commercial folk group, we for the most part sang songs that already existed in folklore.

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Jackson Browne at home, March 17, 1971. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“That started to change after Bob Dylan wrote ‘Song to Woody’ in tribute to folk legend Woody Guthrie. Dylan idolized Guthrie and did this talking blues for his first album [1962]. So here was a contemporary guy writing a song that sounded like an old folk song.

“In the movie ‘Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter’ [2011], Jackson Browne said something great: ‘When I first heard Dylan, I said, “Okay, I get it” – it’s kind of a pop song, but it’s very personal.’ Well, I would paraphrase Jackson to say, ‘It’s kind of a folk song, but it’s very personal.’”

After Dylan came The Beatles, who turned America on its ear in early 1964 with the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and a series of Sunday night live appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“When all the folk musicians saw that and heard this joyful music played with electric instruments, I know in our group, a microcosm, we said, ‘Well, what are we singing about ox drivers for? We want to sing about happy, joyful things, like ‘I wanna hold your hand.’ And why do we have this big, stodgy, stand-up bass? Let’s get an electric bass.’ Within a week we had an electric bass and electric guitars.

“The same thing happened to The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and many others. There was a big sea change right about the mid-‘60s when all the folk artists and groups went electric and started writing their own tunes and became folk-rock groups.

“Then in the later ‘60s, you have Stephen Stills, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and all these people writing their own songs. Graham Nash with The Hollies: He was writing his own songs but they refused to sing them, so he quit and joined up with Stephen Stills and David Crosby.

“Everybody was switching over to this new folk-rock-pop singer-songwriter stuff. Back then, and for years after that, it seemed as though almost every artist in the universe fell into that category. And that’s what is in this book.”

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David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash at Gary Burden’s house, February 13, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

How the original, long-out-of-print Japanese edition of “Unpainted Faces” came to be in 1991 wasn’t by design, it just happened. That’s a recurring theme in Diltz’s life story.

He began by recounting the day in 1966 when he bought his first camera at a roadside thrift shop while touring with MFQ, and started off by shooting slides, not prints.

“When I became a photographer, all I cared about was color photos, because my whole orientation was through slide shows. So for the first year or two, color was all I took. I didn’t even know about black and white.

“But after a year or two, as I started getting into photography professionally, record companies and artists would tell me they needed specifically black and white photos for publicity.

The Monkees — Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones — on the outdoor set at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, September 1967. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“In those days most newspapers didn’t print color, and we didn’t have software that could convert a color photo to black and white in a touch or two. You had to shoot black and white – it was a requirement. So I started to carry a second camera and used that whenever somebody needed black and white photos.

“A number of years went by, and one day, I realized I had inadvertently accumulated quite a lot of black and white stuff that had never been published.

“I went through it all, marked my favorites, and made a bunch of 5×7 prints. I got an art book, a sketchbook, and with the help of my longtime graphic artist partner Gary Burden, we came up with a sequence – some of the pictures kind of pair up or follow each other nicely.

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David Cassidy and Elton John at dinner, New Zealand, February 26, 1974. Photo © Henry Diltz./Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“Then we carefully pasted all of the 5x7s into the art book. For captions, I wrote just the title and date underneath each photo. That was it.

“One of our ideas was to show it to Ed Silver at Warner Bros. Publishing, who said, ‘Well, this is a really great book, but I want you to write the stories behind all of these photos.’

“At that point, I just said, ‘Aw, forget it, I’m out there working, I don’t have time to do that. I’m not a writer and I’m not gonna sit and write all this stuff.’ So I shelved it – didn’t even look at it for another number of years.

Ray Charles at his piano, August 19, 1980. Photo © Henry Diltz./Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“One day in 1990, a Japanese publisher was in L.A. and wanted to have lunch with me, and said, ‘Please bring some of your photos.’ I dug around and found that little book and it was a little beat up, but I still gave it to him: ‘Well, here’s a bunch of photos.’

“He just flipped out. He loved it. ‘Oh! We want to do this book!’ he said. ‘We want to print it just like it is, with the little rips and the coffee stains and all the hand-written titles…’ They wanted to reproduce it exactly. So I let them. I said, ‘OK, you take all the pictures and do what you like with them.’

“Word later got back to me that the title they’d come up with translated literally from Japanese into English as ‘Unpainted Faces.’ I thought, ‘That sounds great!’ It means ‘natural.’ And that’s what I do. I don’t do studio stuff, don’t use makeup artists. My work is rough, raw, natural – just the way things really are. So I thought ‘Unpainted Faces’ was a perfect title.

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Dan Fogelberg, down by the river, Colorado, June 1993. Photo © Henry Diltz./Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“When the book finally got printed and they sent me the first copy in 1991, to my surprise, the title in English was ‘Innocent Age’ [laughs]. I said, ‘What the hell?’ I guess there are probably many, many meanings to the Japanese characters. So, they chose to call it ‘Innocent Age.’

“I quickly called Dan Fogelberg and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got the book to go along with your album “The Innocent Age”!’ [laughs].

“Also to my shock and horror, the publisher had picked the nutty picture of Neil Young sharing a beer with a moose head on the wall and slapped that on the book’s cover. OK, I had told them to do whatever they liked, so there it was: the title ‘Innocent Age,’ my name in large type, and Neil in the moose photo on the front. Blam!

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Neil Young with his beer-guzzling mounted moose at his newly-bought beach house in Malibu, June 16, 1975. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, without checking with Neil and with his manager, Elliot Roberts, first, Elliot will have my house!’ [laughs].

“I was a little chagrined, and honestly kind of afraid to call Elliot, so I called Neil, ‘cause I’ve known him longer, and we were fellow musicians way back in the ‘60s.

“I said, ‘Neil, I had no control over it, but this book came out and they arbitrarily put your picture on the cover – I didn’t tell them to do it, didn’t know it was gonna happen, but it’s done. I’m afraid of what Elliot will do.’ And Neil laughed and said, ‘Well, you just tell Elliot I said it’s OK,’ or words to that effect. [laughs].

“We didn’t change the photo for the reissue, since Neil OK’d it back then.”

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James Taylor in Peter Asher’s living room, Los Angeles, December 13, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

There’s a fascinating story like the one above behind every picture, as Ed Silver and everyone who’s seen and appreciated Diltz’s work or knows him can also attest. Someday they may all be told. At this writing, Henry is working on an autobiography.

For now, though, as a further preview, here are the tales behind a few more “Unpainted Faces.”

“One of my favorite black and white photos in the book is of James Taylor. It’s just like the color shot on the ‘Sweet Baby James’ album cover many people are familiar with.

“In fact, my assignment that day was to shoot black and white publicity photos. [Taylor’s manager] Peter Asher called me and said, ‘Won’t you come over to my house? We need some publicity shots of James Taylor.’ Well, I knew from experience that meant in black and white.

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James Taylor sitting on an old truck at The Farm from the “Sweet Baby James” photo shoot, Los Angeles, December 13, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

“I was shooting James sitting in Peter’s living room on the floor, playing the guitar, and said, ‘We need to get outside where we can get some better light. Let’s go to Cyrus Faryar’s place.’

“It was nearby [Lake Hollywood area] and called The Farm, and had several little barns and sheds with really weathered wood, which made a nice background. It was a comfortable place to hang out and shoot photos.

“At The Farm, James and I walked toward one of the sheds. He was a big, tall guy, and when he leaned his arms on this big, tall pole, I took a couple of black and white pictures. Then I said, ‘Man, that looks so good, I wanna – just hold it a minute.’

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From the James Taylor “Sweet Baby James” photoshoot, The Farm, Los Angeles, December 13, 1969. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

“I picked up my color camera, thinking I wanted to get a color shot of that just for myself, just to show in my slide shows to my friends. So I took a couple of color shots and then continued with black and white.

“When Peter saw the color stuff and showed it to the art director at Warner Bros., that shot became the ‘Sweet Baby James’ cover.

“But the black and white shot, the first one I took, was so sharp and has such a feeling – a really peaceful kind of a ‘Sweet Baby James’ feeling to it. I’ve always just loved that as a portrait, so that’s in the book.

“There are a couple of Neil Young shots I especially love in ‘Unpainted Faces,’ too. One of them, which we call ‘Neil Young Ranch,’ was taken at his Broken Arrow Ranch up in Northern California.

“We were walking around one morning, just taking a little tour of the farm, and stopped in one little barn and went inside. As I was standing inside, Neil walked out again, and stood in the sunlight right in front of the barn. I saw him standing there, looking off into the distance, and with his little dog by his feet – named Harte, after Bret Harte, the American writer – it looked so great.

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Neil Young with his dog Harte at his Broken Arrow Ranch in Redwood City, May 29, 1971. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

“I turned around and went click-click-click, just grabbed it right there while it was happening.

“Many of the pictures in ‘Unpainted Faces’ are candids like that. A few are onstage, but for the most part, they’re taken with God’s own light, outdoors, and [capture] whatever was happening. Obviously, for a group shot, you have to get the guys rounded up and looking in your direction, so they’re not all candid. But generally, I like the candid, ‘fly on the wall’ style.”

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Henry Diltz: “I went along with my friend Stephen K. Peeples to interview Tom Waits [September 4, 1980]. Tom was in a little office at Zoetrope studios working on the music for Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘One from the Heart.’ The piano took up most of the room and there were papers strewn all over the floor. As Tom and Stephen talked, I walked around quietly snapping photos.”  Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

Henry Diltz: A Biography

henry diltzAs noted in the “Unpainted Faces” foreword, renowned photographer and Morrison Hotel Gallery co-founder Henry Diltz never set out to shoot some of the most iconic photos of the last half-century. It just happened.

His photos are distinguished by a lyrical sense of composition actor Harrison Ford once referred to as “Henry’s framing Jones.” They are imbued with an intuitive, natural luminosity that only available light – Diltz’s preference – can deliver.

Whether he’s working in old-school film or modern digital images, in color or black and white, his photos achieve the ideal balance of illumination, color and reportage. It’s a style that’s easy to recognize and appreciate.

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David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, Big Bear, California, February 17, 1969. This photo graced the inside of the trio’s eponymous debut album the same year. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

Diltz’s first passion, though, was music, and his childhood helped him prepare for a life as a musician on the road.

Modern Folk Quartet, 1964. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., on September 6, 1938, Henry spent most of his early years traveling and living overseas with his stepfather, a State Department film producer. As a youngster, Henry was exposed to – and learned to co-exist in – different cultures in Japan, Germany, Thailand and Hawaii.

Fresh from a globe-trotting childhood, Henry attended colleges in Munich, West Point, then Honolulu, where he picked up the banjo and cut his teeth on folk and choral music, singing and playing in choirs and glee clubs.

Diltz co-founded the Modern Folk Quartet with friends including Chip Douglas and Cyrus Faryar at the Greensleeves Coffee House in Honolulu in 1961, and the lineup solidified when Jerry Yester joined in Los Angeles the year after.

They recorded a pair of albums for Warner Bros. (the eponymous debut produced by future Byrds manager Jim Dickson in 1963 and “Changes” the following year) and toured extensively through mid-1966, playing countless clubs, college and concert dates.

At Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, October 1965 (from left): Cyrus Faryar, Jerry Yester, Chip Douglas, Phil Spector, Henry Diltz, Eddie Hoh. Photo: Robert W. Young.

Along the way, Diltz crossed paths with many other musicians and developed what would become lifelong friendships.

MFQ caught the ears of the legendary Phil Spector, who produced the group’s 1965 cover of “This Could Be the Night,” written by Harry Nilsson. (MFQ’s version was used as the theme for the concert film “The Big TNT Show” but not commercially released until Spector’s “Back to Mono” boxed set in 1991.)

Based in Hollywood by then, Diltz played on a few of Spector’s legendary Wall-of-Sound sessions, including The Ronettes’ “Paradise” and The Righteous Brothers’ “Ebb Tide.” Henry also picked the banjo part on Bob Lind’s hit recording of “Elusive Butterfly” early the same year. (Much later, in 1972, Diltz played the five-string on America’s hit “Don’t Cross the River.”)

In early ’66, MFQ packed up their camper and took what would be the group’s final road trip across the United States. One afternoon, passing through rural Michigan, they stopped at a roadside junk store, where each bought a second-hand camera, just for grins. It would give them something creative to do to beat the boredom on those long stretches between gigs.

“Mine cost 20 bucks – it was called a Pony,” Diltz recalled recently, describing his first camera. [It wasn’t a Kodak Pony, but a cheap knockoff.] “Cyrus in our group bought us all film, handed me a roll and said, ‘Here’s yours.’ I had no idea it was slide film.”

At first, Henry had no clue what to do with the camera, either.

“I just read the information that came with the box of film, saw the settings it called for, figured out how to adjust the settings on the camera, and took it from there,” he said. That was all the training he would ever need.

For the next few weeks, Diltz and his friends photographed each other doing everything they did, and once back home in Hollywood, they couldn’t wait to get their film developed.

“When I got mine back, I was surprised to see they were all slides,” he said. “So we said, ‘Let’s have a SLIDE SHOW!’

“We all got together at Ron Jacobs’ house – he was the program director of [Los Angeles Top 40 radio station] KHJ and a very good friend, and we had this huge slide show. When I saw the first slide hit the wall, I thought, ‘This is absolute magic,’ that we could replay those scenes we had all just gone through in this huge, glowing fashion.”

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Ron Jacobs, a man of many talents, and one of the two Executive Producers of the Miami Pop Festival – a job he apparently did in his spare time. His full-time job in 1968 was Program Director at the leading AM Top 40 hit radio station in the country, ‘Boss Radio’ KHJ in Los Angeles. In fact, Jacobs was one of the nation’s pioneers in creating the model for such radio. Jacobs took a well-earned vacation in late ’68 to help run the Miami Pop Festival. Here, he seems surprisingly relaxed in a staff meeting at festival headquarters at Gulfstream Park. Photo © Henry Diltz./Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

Diltz immediately planned another slide show and started shooting more pictures.

“I wanted to get images that would entertain my friends,” he said. “During the next several weeks I constantly photographed them, their pets, old cars – just about everything I saw. Many of my friends were musicians: Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Mama Cass, Linda Ronstadt.

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Linda Ronstadt, Santa Monica, February 16, 1968. Photo © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

“They didn’t see me as a photographer. I was just the same guy that had always been a part of the music scene, so they didn’t put their guard up, and this allowed me to take very natural pictures.”

Diltz traces his inevitable transition from amateur to pro to an unplanned Buffalo Springfield photo he took in 1966.

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Buffalo Springfield outside The Third Eye in Redondo Beach, October 7-8, 1966 (from left): Richie Furay, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Steve Stills and Neil Young. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

“Stephen [Stills] asked me along to a soundcheck at a club down by the beach, so I went along to get some new slide show pictures on the beach while they were in the club,” he said.

“A little while later, I was taking a picture of a giant painting on a wall on the back of the club, when the band came walking out. I asked them to stand in front of the painting and wound up taking the first ‘group shot’ of my life.”

Soon after, he said, an editor from Teen Set magazine called.

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Buffalo Springfield outside The Third Eye in Redondo Beach, October 7-8, 1966. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

“They heard I had taken this picture of Buffalo Springfield and offered to pay me $100 to publish it,” he said. “I could hardly believe someone would pay me to do what I loved. That was the simple way my career as a photographer began – all by accident.”

Poster for the concert featuring Buffalo Springfield and The Turtles with Everpresent Fullness at the Third Eye in Redondo Beach, California, October 1966.

It wasn’t long before Diltz also scored his first album cover credit. Sort of.

After MFQ’s amicable split in mid-1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful invited Henry to grab his camera and hit the road with them that summer. Back home, the art director at the band’s label chose a still of each guy and slapped the four cutouts against a cheesy background for the cover of “Hums of The Lovin’ Spoonful,” their third album, out in late 1966.

diltzBy then, demand for Diltz’s photographic talents was growing quickly among his expanding universe of musician friends.

His visual career really took off in 1968, after he met Gary Burden, a gifted designer whose own career as a graphic artist had recently been launched by chance.

“Gary was an architect remodeling Cass Elliot’s house in Laurel Canyon, and she needed an album cover,” Diltz said. “She told him, ‘You can do this!’ and talked him into it.” That resulted in the cover for the former The Mamas & Papas singer’s debut solo album, “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

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“Gary and I formed a team that eventually created around 100 album packages,” Henry said of his prolific six-year partnership with Burden. “I was traveling on the road with various groups, and my photos would become their album covers.”

Working with Burden, Diltz shot immediately recognizable covers and other memorable images for artists including The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Eagles, Jackson Browne, America, Steppenwolf, James Taylor and many more during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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As a musician, Henry knew most of his peers, especially the better-known ones, hated photo sessions. So he and Burden took special care to make them painless, even enjoyable.

“We always planned fun adventures to take our photos,” Diltz said. “We hung out on Venice Beach and Skid Row in L.A. with The Doors, camped out in the desert and shot up an old western movie set with the Eagles, drove through Big Sur with America. All the while, I would photograph everything that happened.”

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Eagles and friends’ shootout at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills for the “Desperado” album cover, December 20, 1972. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

Diltz’s documentary style was well-suited to the rock era’s biggest events, too. He shot the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 and the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August 1969, as well as the 25th and 30th-anniversary gatherings in 1994 and 1999.

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The many faces and moods of fans upfront at Woodstock ’94. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

Henry was packing his cameras on the private jet for Rolling Stone Ron Wood’s notorious New Barbarians rampage across America in 1979, with fellow Stone Keith Richards, backed by Stanley Clarke, Ian McLagan, Bobby Keys and Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters.

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Keith Richards and Ron Wood in Lear jet on the New Barbarians tour, May 22, 1979. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used with permission.

And a few years later, at the second US Festival in California over Memorial Day weekend 1983, Diltz was onstage and backstage shooting country superstars including Emmylou Harris. More recently, he shot a couple of Lollapaloozas and a Bonnaroo.

Over the years, in addition to the aforementioned artists, Diltz has shot what are now considered historic images of many more, including (in no particular order) Jimi Hendrix, The Hollies, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, The Who, Bob Seger, The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, Harrison Ford, Richard Pryor, Richard Harris, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Tom Waits, and Joni Mitchell.

diltzDiltz’s photos have graced the pages of most of the top newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, People, Rolling Stone, High Times and Billboard. His celebrated Life magazine cover of Paul and Linda McCartney captured the reclusive couple at ease in Malibu in 1971.

Henry’s photos have also appeared prominently in several books, most notably “California Rock, California Sound” (with Anthony Fawcett, 1978), “Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography” (with Dave Zimmer, 1984), “California Dreaming: Memories & Visions of L.A. 1966-1975, the Photographs of Henry Diltz” (Genesis, 2009) and “Woodstock Experience” (with Michael Lang and Dan Garson, Genesis 2009).

Since 2001, Diltz has been a partner in the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, the exclusive representative and publisher of his images.

In its first decade, the gallery has grown to also represent and display the works of more than 80 of the world’s top music photographers.

Morrison Hotel Gallery’s genesis goes back as far as 1978 when Diltz visited the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood and met and became friends with this writer and Peter Blachley, who both worked there. They were longtime fans of Henry’s work and encouraged him to find a way someday to make his incredible archive of unpublished rock ‘n’ roll history available to fans and collectors everywhere.

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Peter Blachley, Gary Burden, Gerry Beckley and Henry Diltz at the launch party for “Under the Covers,” Hollywood, 1999. Kodak DC-1 digital photo: Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Someday finally came a couple of decades later, with the rise of the digital era. By then, Diltz had documented another 20 years of pop culture.

Eventually, in 1999, he reconnected with Burden and teamed with Blachley, by then a successful video producer, for the “Under the Covers” CD-ROM, DVD and PBS television special.

The acclaimed production captured Henry and Gary casually recounting the fascinating and often humorous stories behind some of their most famous album covers, spiked with archival footage (mainly Super 8 clips Henry shot between his stills) plus fresh interviews with artists who know him well, among them David Crosby, Graham Nash and Glenn Frey.

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Henry Diltz at Woodstock ’99, promoter Michael Lang’s official photographer at all three Woodstocks. Photo: © Henry Diltz/Henry Diltz Photography. Used by permission.

Sparked in part by the success of “Under the Covers,” Diltz and Blachley partnered with Rich Horowitz to establish the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City, named in homage to Diltz’s famed front cover photo for The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Café” album, out in early 1970.

“I’m amazed at the accumulation of images that resulted simply by doing what I love to do, day after day after day,” Diltz said of his archive. “These thousands of pictures have become a history of the music and the times. This was not something I planned or even thought about back then, and it still surprises me it happened. 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,” he said, “and I have arrived in the present, where I have always been, camera in hand. That says it best for me.”

Keeping his base in Southern California, Diltz still heads where the images are, using natural light, candid situations and emerging technology to produce ever-current images of the musicians who inspire the rock ‘n’ roller in each of us.

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Just a small section of Henry Diltz’s archive of slides, with a photo of son Nick putting him in a headlock on the shelf along with some favorite toys, Studio City, California, February 8, 2018. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Henry’s as busy now as he wants to be. “I’m still taking photos for slide shows and album covers – they’re smaller CD covers now – and keeping the archival photos available through the Gallery for books, magazines and boxed sets. And I play music with my same old friends.

“To this day I am a big fan of letting the universe decide what happens, although I realize being a musician allowed me the freedom to have that attitude,” Henry said. “Sometimes, if you don’t get in your own way, life will unfold as you never imagined.”

Henry Diltz, rolling some of what he reverently refers to as “God’s herb.”

Special thanks to Henry Diltz, Henry Diltz Photography and the Morrison Hotel Gallery,  Henry’s archivist Gary Strobl, and SKP production assistant Rory Aronsky.


Extras: Slideshows and Video Interviews

Henry Diltz at the Grammy Museum, 2014

Check out this video of Henry Diltz describing his photos displayed as part of the “California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon” Grammy Museum exhibit on May 18, 2014.

‘Unpainted Faces’ 2011 Slide Show (with Some Painted Faces)

Barnes & Noble at The Grove near Farmer’s Market welcomed Henry for an “Unpainted Faces” book slideshow and signing event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. The space was packed, standing room only.

Henry Diltz on ‘House Blend’ with Stephen K. Peeples, 2010

Henry was the special guest on SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” with a certain host on November 10, 2010.


Stephen K. Peeples and Henry Diltz have been friends and creative-co-conspirators since 1978. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. He earned a Grammy nomination as co-producer of the “Monterey International Pop Festival” box set with Lou Adler and Geoff Gans (Rhino/MIPF, 1992). • Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radioseries for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and writer/producer of hundreds of WW1 programs in the preceding five years. • His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983) and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). • Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). • Based in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). • The Santa Clarita journalist is now a News Editor at SCVTV’s SCVNews.com, SVP/New Media for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and developing a biography of notorious Texas Artlaw Boyd Elder. • For more info and original stories, visit https://stephenkpeeples.com/For exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.

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Henry Diltz accepts a suspect brownie from Stephen K. Peeples, Studio City, California, 1978. Photo: Boyd Elder.

Article: Music Photographer Henry Diltz: A Lifetime of Painted & ‘Unpainted Faces’
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: News and Reviews
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com