See and hear rock legends from “Behind the Lens” |

See and hear rock legends from “Behind the Lens”

Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

Last October, Henry Diltz won a prestigious Lucie Award for photography, joining the ranks of such renowned photographers as Annie Liebovitz, Gordon Parks and Richard Avedon.

"That was kind of a big surprise out of nowhere," admitted Diltz, who never took a photography lesson in his life.

Everything he knows about photography he learned from the back of a box of Kodachrome film, he told The Union earlier this month.

The 77-year-old Diltz was honored for achievement in music photography.

He has shot more than 400 album covers and captured iconic images of rock legends Jim Morrison, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Keith Richards, Buffalo Springfield, and Crosby, Stills and Nash — to name a few.

This Saturday, Diltz will come out from "Behind the Lens" in a special tell-all slide show at The Center for the Arts to explain how he got shots nobody else could get.

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Joining Diltz will be Pattie Boyd, a model, author and photographer who was married to George Harrison of the Beatles and later to Eric Clapton.

"Her photographs are combined with a biographical visual of her life," explained Peter Blachley, producer of "Behind the Lens" and co-founder of the Morrison Hotel Galleries of fine music art in New York and Los Angeles.

An accidental photographer

"I didn't think I wanted to become a photographer. I wasn't thinking that way," Diltz said. "I was a musician."

A banjo player and co-founder of the Modern Folk Quartet, Diltz picked up a used 35 mm camera on a whim in a secondhand store in East Lansing, Mich., while on tour in 1966.11

He learned how to set the shutter speed and f-stop from a box of Kodak film.

Fascinated, he shot several rolls of film, but he didn't develop the film until the tour ended back home in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.

To his surprise and delight, he discovered he had slides, and his immediate thought was, "Hey, let's have a slide show!"

"So we invited all of our hippie friends and all got together and man, when the first slide hit the wall, it absolutely blew my mind, because it was shimmering there, eight feet wide, color. It was like being there," he recalled.

That slide show was the first of many.

"My friends loved it, because there were a lot of funny things going on in the pictures and historic moments in our lives," he added.

"I photographed the people around me," he said. "I shot the guys in my group and their girlfriends and our friends in Hollywood, people in Laurel Canyon. I took pictures of everything."

The reason he got those intimate shots was because, "they didn't perceive me as a photographer. They perceived me just as a fellow musician, one of the guys hanging out every day."

After a few years, his friends started getting famous.

They insisted on using his pictures for publicity photos and album covers.

Then the magazines began calling.

"I just kind of sidestepped into the whole thing," Diltz laughed.

"I call Henry the Forrest Gump of rock photography," said Blachley.

He always seems to be at the right place at the right time.

And, "He's a fabulous story teller."

Like the time, "the guitar player for the Lovin' Spoonful squirted lighter fluid in my toilet and threw a match in there. The flames shot up. So I took a picture of a flaming toilet," Diltz chuckled.

The lady is a muse

"Pattie Boyd is probably the muse of a generation. There have been great love songs written about her," Blachley asserted, including "Something" (Harrison) and "Layla," "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Wonderful Tonight" (Clapton).

Boyd was in transit from the UK and unavailable for interview as of press time.

"The show is really a fun thing," Diltz said. "First I do my slide show of all the well-known people I've photographed in Laurel Canyon and L.A. in the singer-songwriter era.

"Then Pattie Boyd comes and shows all of her pictures from a similar time in England," he continued. "She tells her stories in her lovely English accent. I always think of her as sort of the dessert, the cherry on top."

"The show has that heroic rock'n'roll thing that the men love," said Blachley. "With Pattie, it's the story of a muse who was married to two of the greatest rock'n'roll players ever, and the women love that."

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. Reach him at or

Know & Go

Who: Rock’n’roll photographers Henry Diltz and Pattie Boyd

What: “Behind the Lens” a presentation of the Morrison Hotel Gallery

Where: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, March 26

Admission: $24 members, $27 non- members (tickets include $2 fee plus online fees for advance tickets)

Tickets and more information:: CFTA box office, 530-274-8384, x14 and

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