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This is the first of a new mini-series of personal archival selections from Jeff Roth, a remarkable archivist, who has not only helped with some of my projects but runs the New York Times morgue, where folders filled with clips and photographs are buried. I’ve asked him to chose five of his favorite images and tell us why. We will see them over the next two weeks. Today: Woodstock.
“In the Summer of 1969, the Times hears that some young ‘Sammy Glicks’ are building a “rock festival” It’s gonna be big, with big Rock acts and lots of kids doing the “Hippie” thing. It’s “Woodstock.” We assign most of our photo staff to cover the story. Every angle; in the crowd, from the stage, above it, on the road, off it, on the bus, off it, in traffic,, at The Times… every side but….. the music. Out of three thousand frames, only thirty have any performers. “Teen” music was of no consequence to The New York Times, let the tabloids cover Yasgur’s Augean pastures.”
“Thirty years later, I’m deliberately going through every contact sheet and I see five frames of this black guitar-slinger dude. I turn it over, “Jim Hendricks, guitarist.” Our veteran shooter, Larry Morris was more on the Ellington train in 1969 and could care less about “Rock.” So every year our editors would ask, “do we have any Times shots of Jimi Hendrix?” And it would be, no. Because Larry misspelled his name, we never made any prints and of course no one ever looked at each sheet, close, real close.”