Woodstock at 40: The Rise of Music Journalism’ Opens Aug. 1 at the Newseum
The Newseum announced plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair with “Woodstock at 40: The Rise of Music Journalism.” The exhibition, open Aug. 1 through Oct. 31, features rarely seen images from a trio of photojournalists — including a 17-year-old Connecticut high schooler — who covered the event, as well as other examples of media coverage, Woodstock memorabilia and artifacts.
In addition to a camera, press passes and notes from the featured photographers, the artifacts include a working list of the artists who performed and how much each act was paid and other items from Woodstock concert promoter Michael Lang.
Rolling Stone called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair “the most famous event in rock history.” The Newseum’s “Woodstock at 40” exhibit invites visitors to consider how the event changed the way that news media — and the rest of the nation — looked at rock music and popular culture.
At the time, reports focused on traffic jams, rainstorms, food shortages, drug use and crowd size. New York’s Sunday News headlined its story “Hippies Mired in Sea of Mud.”
But according to USA Today rock critic Edna Gundersen, “The media and the music industry were awakened by Woodstock and started to recognize music as not just a frivolous and entertaining diversion but as a growing cultural magnet and a commercial force with enormous potential.”
Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel says that, “prior to Woodstock, there were few reporters in the mainstream media who covered rock music seriously. That changed very quickly after the festival. Many of the reporters who did attend completely missed the story, focusing instead on those things that seem insignificant now — the traffic, the crowds, the weather. It was the equivalent of going to cover the Super Bowl and neglecting to mention the football game.”
“Woodstock at 40” focuses on the efforts of three photographers to document the event.
Concert promoter Lang paid Henry Diltz $500 to be the official photographer of Woodstock. Diltz arrived in Bethel, N.Y., two weeks before the concert to capture the preparations and remained through Jimi Hendrix’s festival-ending performance. He then headed for the offices of Life magazine and submitted hundreds of freshly developed slides. “Woodstock at 40” features the three Diltz images as they appeared — with full-page treatment — in the 1969 “Woodstock Special Edition” of Life, as well as other images of the performers and crowd.
Mark Goff covered Woodstock as a 22-year-old reporter for Kaleidoscope, a Milwaukee-based alternative newspaper that was published in the late 1960s. Armed with a press pass, Goff had access to the entire venue. His rarely seen photos feature extraordinary snapshots of both the performers — Joan Baez, Ravi Shankar, Sly Stone — and the crowds taken from the press pit located just below the stage. Goff’s images appear alongside his mud-splattered press kit, press pass, concert pin and tickets.
The exhibition also features rarely seen images taken by reporter Dan Garson who, as a 17-year-old journalist for his high school newspaper in Connecticut, wrote the festival organizers for a press pass. To his astonishment, he got one. Garson captured more than 300 photographs, only four of which were ever published. The rest were forgotten in his parents’ basement. “Woodstock at 40” features the first public museum display of Garson’s photos as well as the 35mm camera he used, his notes and the letter Garson received from Woodstock granting him a press pass.
The Newseum has produced an original, five-minute feature presentation for the 90-foot-long screen in the museum’s Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater. The production mixes news photographs and rarely seen network footage of the concert with images taken by the exhibit’s featured photographers. Interviews with Barnard Collier, who covered the concert for The New York Times; Jan Hodenfield, who covered for Rolling Stone; and USA Today rock critic Edna Gundersen are mixed with music from the concert. The production will run daily while “Woodstock at 40” is on display.
“Woodstock at 40” was made possible through the generous cooperation of Rona Elliot and Genesis Publications, publisher of “Woodstock Experience,” along with Brad LeMee and the family of Dan Garson, Woodstock executive producer Michael Lang, and photographers Henry Diltz and Mark Goff.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, a local band assembled specifically to mark the exhibit opening, “Woodstock Re-Covered,” will perform music from the historic concert in the Newseum’s New York Times — Ochs-Sulzberger Family Great Hall of News beginning at 2 p.m.
On Sunday, Aug. 9, Woodstock Music and Art Fair organizer Michael Lang will offer a revealing look at how one concert brought a half-million people to an upstate farm in Bethel, N.Y., and captured the social and political spirit of the decade. After the program, Lang will sign copies of his book, “The Road to Woodstock.”
On Saturday, Aug. 15, former New York Times reporter Barnard L. Collier will sort out fact from fiction about the historic concert. Collier wrote about Woodstock as promoters searched for a location and was on the scene when the final act took the stage.
The Newseum — a 250,000-square-foot museum of news — offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits. Within its seven levels of galleries and theaters, the Newseum offers a unique environment that takes museum-goers behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made.