Unseen Woodstock photographs displayed 45 years on

  • Published
Woodstock coupleImage source, Baron Wolman

The Glastonbury festival is well under way with bands like Metallica and Kasabian among the thousands of artists who will be playing across the weekend.

This year, Woodstock, one of the early music festivals which - along with the Monterey Pop festival - arguably laid the foundations for the modern-day music festival, celebrates its 45th anniversary.

Over an August weekend in New York state, artists such as Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin played to an estimated 400,000 people.

Rolling Stone magazine's editor of photography Baron Wolman was there to document the event. Now, aged 77, some of his unseen photographs from the festival are being shown at an exhibition in London.

Image source, Baron Wolman

"The Glastonbury super fence looks like you're in a prison, you can't even get out without a pass. These fences were more of a demarcation line of the festival area, clearly they weren't made to keep people out. There was no security, the idea was that it wasn't necessary, we could sort out ourselves. Unfortunately, they forgot to set up ticket booths to sell tickets and, when they realised it, it became by default a free festival and they made the announcement. So these guys are not forcing themselves in because they could have gotten in anyway."

Image source, Baron Wolman

"In the beginning, there was a lot of resistance on the part of the local population to the festival people. They were afraid of the hippies and the counterculture, they thought it was going to be an invasion. But when the people showed up, so gentle and nice and thoughtful, they were welcomed. This was on the roadside on the way and there was no hostility there whatsoever."

Image source, Baron Wolman

"The festival refugees, most of the people had smiles on their faces. I can't tell if they are coming or going. But I love that. In none of the pictures will you see a branded T-shirt or tennis shoes. People wore flip flops and sandals."

Black and white

Image source, Baron Wolman

"This is kind of the ecstasy of Woodstock but if you look closely, there aren't many smiling people which puzzles me. These people are dancing and nobody else is smiling. Maybe they were exhausted, maybe they couldn't make it to the loo because once you lost your place you couldn't get back.

"It would be nice to interview some of those people. And you do occasionally come across somebody who was there. But everyone here has a story. Three-hundred thousand people, that would be a hell of a long interview.

"Primarily, I was there for Rolling Stone and we couldn't publish colour in those days. Also, the difference between shooting in colour and in black and white, is that with colour, it becomes a component of the picture. In black and white, you look at the content much more closely."

Traumatised wildlife

Image source, Baron Wolman
Image source, Baron Wolman

"The whole festival took place in areas of dairy farms which is why the cows are around and its such a pastoral picture. They're lying around as if they're listening to the music. But the story goes that the cows were so traumatised by the people and the music that they didn't give milk for a month and the farmer sued the Woodstock people for loss of income."

Image source, Baron Wolman

"During the festival, the Vietnam war was still going on and there was hostility between the counter culture and the military. But during Woodstock, the military home guard sent in medivac helicopters to help out with the sick and injured. For me that was a very important moment."

Image source, Baron Wolman

"This is one of the strangest photos I took. He has a suitcase and he's walking along somewhere, I have no idea where, what he's got in the suitcase. Just one of those mysterious things."


Image source, Baron Wolman

"Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead were sitting backstage, prior to going on. They were scheduled to go on in the middle of the night and Jerry said to Carlos, 'Hey man, let's get high, let's trip'. So they did some acid or some mescaline, one or the other, Carlos is unclear on that point and he got high.

"An hour later, they said, 'Carlos, you're on. If you can't play now, you're not going to play'. So, he played the entire set tripping and he talked about how the guitar in his hand felt like a steel snake moving around. He was listening to the sounds in the monitor and he looked out to the crowd and saw 300,000 sets of teeth and 300,000 pairs of eyes. He said, 'I have no idea what I was playing that day'.

"At the time, Bill Graham the great, iconic concert promoter was managing Carlos and that was the reason why Carlos was there. So Bill was sitting there playing that cowbell and I took a picture of him and he said, 'Baron sit down, I'm going to get a picture of you.'

"This is the only picture of me there, it just proves I was there. You need proof I was there? There it is."

Image source, Baron Wolman

"People say to me, 'Don't you realise what you did, this is a moment of history'. But, at the time you're taking the pictures, when you're immersed in it, you have no sense of time or space. I'm looking around for photos that I can compose and make some sense of it but I had no sense of history.

"I was so overwhelmed by this experience, that's why I took these pictures. I thought that what was happening off stage was more, or as, important as what was going on the stage. The music we all know but nobody, until that time, had an experience like this and I felt like I had to document it."

All images courtesy of Baron Wolman. Woodstock, by Baron Wolman, is published by www.reelartpress.com. The exhibition of Baron Wolman's Woodstock photography will be at Forge & Co Gallery, London E1 from 27 June to 8 July.

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