By Chris M. Junior
One was a singer and banjo player in a band, and the other one worked as a model. As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, Henry Diltz and Pattie Boyd also became known as photographers with impressive portfolios containing images of rock ’n’ roll icons.
“Being a musician,” says Diltz, who was a member of the Modern Folk Quartet, “I had so many friends in Laurel Canyon who were musicians, so I just started taking photos of them without really being a photographer.”
“While I was modeling, I was living with a photographer,” recalls Boyd, a top fashion model prior to meeting first husband George Harrison. “I wanted to know what photographers were looking at, how they wanted me to move. So I bought a camera, and then I became interested in viewing people and capturing moments.”
For Diltz, his subjects have included The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor. Boyd aimed her camera at The Beatles, Jeff Beck and her second husband, Eric Clapton.
The work of Diltz and Boyd will be featured in the first edition of Behind the Lens, a touring show produced by the Morrison Hotel Gallery (which was co-founded by Diltz).
“We dreamed this up together because we love hanging out together,” says Diltz, adding that he became “fast friends” with Boyd years ago when the Morrison Hotel Gallery presented her photography in a show.
The Behind the Lens tour begins Sept. 10 in Los Angeles (tickets are already sold out) and also makes stops in Nashville (Sept. 13), Chicago (Sept. 16), New York (Sept. 21) and Fall River, Mass. (Sept. 23). At each stop, Diltz and Boyd will be on hand to share backstories on their respective photos.
In mid-August, Diltz and Boyd talked about what fans could expect to see and hear at a Behind the Lens show, along with other photography-related topics.
GOLDMINE: How would you describe your style and approach to shooting portraits?
HENRY DILTZ: My one sort of trick is to pretty much start shooting right away. I’ll sit down (with the person I’m shooting) and we’ll talk for a few minutes and get to know each other. And while we’re talking, I’ll have my camera in my hand and very quickly take a few shots, before they can even react, and that breaks the ice. That way, you don’t have that awkward moment: “OK, well, we’ve talked now for 20 minutes. Why don’t you stand over there?”
A lot of people are not comfortable in front of a camera. They say, “I don’t know what to do.” And I always say, “Look, wait about 20 minutes until I’ve taken a couple of hundred pictures, and you’ll be so bored, then we’ll get that good shot.” In other words, you want to take a whole bunch of pictures because you know that the ones that are going to be great are going to be the ones (toward the end).
PATTIE BOYD: For me, I still know intrinsically that the most important thing is to see how the light is playing on a figure, on a face. And then the design is important. It’s essential when taking a photograph to see what’s in the background, whether there’s something else going on or not.
GM: Which musicians really seemed to like having their picture taken? And which ones were reluctant and required a little finessing to cooperate?
DILTZ: The first year I was photographing, my musician friend Erik Jacobsen, who became a record producer for The Lovin’ Spoonful, called me. He said, “Come to New York for the summer. We need lots of photos of the guys.” The Spoonful had this rock ’n’ roll notion that they had to be bad boys — that they shouldn’t cooperate. So every time I had an opportunity to take a group shot, they’d give me the finger or stick their tongues out.
One day at Zal Yanovsky’s apartment, the phone rings, and it’s Mama Cass. She says, “Are you guys going to be there for a while this afternoon? I want to bring some friends by” — and she comes by with The Hollies. And we had a lovely day drinking and telling stories. And Graham Nash says to me, “You’re a photographer? We need some new publicity photos. Could we meet you tomorrow?”
So here come The Hollies the next day. (I started giving them directions), and they looked at me and smiled. I couldn’t believe it. “Wow. These guys are actually going to pose and cooperate? I’ve never had that!” (laughs) So right there in that first year, I had the one group that would not pose and cooperate and the one group that was very cooperative. I took more pictures that afternoon with The Hollies than I did the whole summer with the Spoonful.
BOYD: Some people really enjoy being coaxed by me to be photographed. Mostly what happens with musicians is they get bored very quickly. Their attention span for standing still is limited. (To engage them), I’d tell funny stories or play music. Just keep chatting — and it’s actually quite difficult to carry on chatting while thinking, “Is the lighting OK? Am I missing anything?”
GM: Is there a particular photo or series of images you are especially looking forward to talking about on the Behind the Lens tour?
DILTZ: I’ve had a whole life of documenting music, so that’s what this slide show is. I try to arrange it all in a long story, with many little chapters and pages, like telling how we got that “Morrison Hotel” cover for The Doors. The guy at the front desk said, “You can’t shoot in here,” then he left the desk in the hotel lobby, and the band went in there and we did it anyway. Or how Crosby, Stills and Nash are in the wrong order on the couch of the cover (of their debut album). It seems like all of these pictures that I did had an adventure to them because they weren’t done in a studio. They were real-life things, and I can remember what was funny and interesting about them.
BOYD: I took some photographs of Mick Fleetwood; he came over to London for a month or so. He and my sister had just split up, and he was hanging out with me. My friends and I had dinner with him one night, and gradually, the more we drank, the more silly it became. He picked up a beer glass with a handle and put it in front of one eye, and then in front of two eyes, and I thought, “This is fabulous!” They looked like a pair of spectacles, with him holding the actual glasses in front of his face.
GM: What other photography-related projects do you have in the works?
DILTZ: In early September, there’s an hour-long documentary about my life (called “Rock Photographer Henry Diltz: Famous Among the Famous”) that’s scheduled to air on Swedish TV. Over there, it’s sort of like public TV. They don’t need to pay for the music rights. (But if we were to air it in America), someone would have to pay a considerable amount of money for the music that’s in it.
On Oct. 28 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York, we are going to have a photo show called Bernstein, Diltz and Nash. That’s (photographer) Joel Bernstein, me and Graham Nash. All three of us are going to have a joint show featuring photos of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
BOYD: I would love to have a photograph book. I was approached by a publishing house (last year). Then Thanksgiving happened, then Christmas — then I never heard from them. I e-mailed them in March and was told they were very, very busy (but still interested in doing a book), so I take that as truth or with a pinch of salt. I think the latter is very true (laughs).
For tickets and more information on Behind The Lens, please click here.