The music and musicians of the 1969 Woodstock festival have been exhaustively documented, but anyone who was actually there can tell you that much of what was most memorable about the show happened offstage. Even with a great sound system, listening to the triple album just doesn’t capture the full experience of that legendary mass of humanity communing peacefully in the rain and mud for three days.
Fortunately for those of us who didn’t get there – and for those who did, but need something to kick-start their synapses – a talented photographer from Rolling Stone was on hand to document the scene. Baron Wolman’s photos focus on the attendees and behind-the-scenes action, rather than the performers on the stage.
“I spent more time photographing the festival ‘experience’ than I did the musicians,” Wolman writes. “I had shot most of the bands before, so I thought, ‘Why would I want to photograph them again?’ I didn’t need any more band pictures. But all those people…that was something else. I had never seen anything like this before in my life.”
Wolman’s iconic images helped to create the long-lasting, idealized myth of the festival, and last year he agreed to donate a selection of his Woodstock images to the permanent collection of the Museum at Bethel Woods. The Museum reopens for the season this Saturday with several special events, including the opening of an exhibition of 100 of Wolman’s best shots, titled “On Assignment: Woodstock – Photos by Rolling Stone Photographer Baron Wolman.” The show will run through August 18.
To kick off the exhibition, the photographer himself will be on hand on Saturday, April 6 at 4 p.m. to present “Forever Young: Baron Wolman and the Early Rolling Stone Years,” a highly illustrated, personalized exploration of his experiences during the late 1960s, including Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love. The talk will be followed by an audience question-and-answer session and a signing of Wolman’s new book, Baron Wolman: The Rolling Stone Years. Admission to this Speaker Event costs $5, and is free for members and with Museum admission.
A 7 p.m. screening of Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, based on Elliot Tiber’s memoir Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert and a Life, will conclude Opening Day. A discussion about the film’s accuracies and inaccuracies in telling the story of the 1969 Woodstock concert will follow the screening. Admission to the film costs $8 general, $6 for members.
In conjunction with “On Assignment: Woodstock,” the Museum will display the first 75 covers of Rolling Stone magazine, featuring the photography and artwork of Baron Wolman, Robert Altman, Annie Leibovitz, Jim Marshall and Rick Griffin, among others, in the Corridor Gallery. An outdoor sculptural installation titled “Shohola Bells: The Sound of Peace,” by renowned potter David Greenbaum, will also debut on Saturday in the Bethel Woods entry plaza. The handmade ceramic bells will remain on display through October 14.
Concluding opening weekend, the Museum’s intimate Event Gallery will host the first installment of the 2013 “Sundays with Friends” Chamber Music Series. Violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Benjamin Hochman will perform live on Sunday, April 7 at 3 p.m.
Spring hours at the Museum at Bethel Woods are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. The Museum returns to its seven-day summer schedule effective May 25. For more information, please visit www.bethelwoodscenter.org or call (866) 781-2922.
Forever Young: Baron Wolman & the Early Rolling Stone Years, Saturday, April 6, 4 p.m., $5, Museum at Bethel Woods, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; (866) 781-2922, www.bethelwoodscenter.org.