Henry Diltz was the official photographer at the legendary Woodstock music festival back in August 1969. Here’s a 6-minute video directed by Scott Hanson for Keeper in which Diltz tells the story of how it all happened (note: there’s a bit of nudity).
Diltz says he got the gig after an acquaintance, lighting director E.H. Beresford “Chip” Monck, suggested the photographer to Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang. The festival sent Diltz $500 — about $3,500 in today’s money — and an airline ticket to get him to the 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.
As the official photographer, Diltz had an all-access pass that other photographers, who were relegated to the photo pit, didn’t have. His spots were sometimes so close that his widest lens wouldn’t even allow him to capture the performing bands in one frame.
Diltz went on to shoot thousands of photos and several rolls of Super 8 film during the three-day event.
“As we look back, you can never replicate [the festival],” Diltz says. “This August is the 50th anniversary. You know how many cell phones are going to be up in the air? How many iPhones filming everything?”
Although Diltz had his expenses covered, he wasn’t actually paid for his services to cover the free festival, but he says he’s fine with that.
“I don’t think I got paid anything,” Diltz says. “I don’t care, because sometimes if you get paid, you gotta give all the pictures away. The reason I have so many pictures is a lot of times I didn’t get paid and I just kept all the pictures.
“I would much rather have the pictures than the pay.”