Elliott Landy discusses ‘The Band Photographs’
Elliott Landy, author of The Band Photographs 1968-1969, spoke with the Poughkeepsie Journal about his book. Elliott Landy goes into detail about why he decided to release the photos, how long it took to produce, and more! Below is an excerpt of his interview, read what else he had to say and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Beauty, harmony and composition. That is the essence of the work of acclaimed photographer Elliott Landy, known for his iconic images of the underground rock scene in New York City during 1967 and the anti-Vietnam War movement that sparked a schism in the establishment and counterculture movement of that time. And then there was a certain music and arts festival in 1969 called Woodstock that took place in the hills of Sullivan County, where Landy, who was an official photographer for the fest, documented a music scene that defined a generation. A Woodstock resident himself, Landy photographed Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Band, among others during those short two years. The latter is the subject of his latest endeavor, a gallery-quality book of some unpublished and classic photographs of The Band, whose members also called Woodstock home. The photographer recently took the time to talk to the Journal about his new book.
Tell us about the photographs in “The Band Photographs: 1968-1969” and why you decided to release them now?
It’s a collection of the really good photographs that I took back in those years. And by really good, I mean, in my opinion. In those years, there wasn’t so much electronic media as there is now, and in order to publish a picture it had to be accepted by a magazine or published in a book. If I had taken those pictures today, three quarters of them would have been out there on the Internet already. People are hungry for that. If the record album company didn’t use them, they had no use for them. And if there was a magazine article, they would use maybe 20 total for all possible media. Over half of them were never seen before, except by me, as I walked back and forth in my studio, looking at the boxes. I used to look at them every so often and think – these are really nice pictures. Not because they were of The Band; I felt they were good photographs which just happened to be of these guys.
What is the story you want these photographs to tell to readers?
Beauty — I wanted to share the feeling of who The Band was, and the harmony and composition of the images show that. The content is almost secondary, it’s part of the decision to show the picture or not. I’m interested in showing a beautifully composed image and that affects you inside. In today’s world, in my opinion, the idea of harmony in a photo is almost ignored.
How long did it take to produce the new book?
It took about two years for it to come out. I had mentioned it to publishers, and told them the way I wanted to do this book, but there was never any interest. I had 12,000 negatives and slides. I realized that with Kickstarter it would be possible to do it my way. My experience with book publishers is like a see-saw – up and down. I never had a bad experience, but it was never “my book.” I wanted to make an art gallery quality book – what you have in your hands is that. I raised $193,000 from Kickstarter — the highest funded photo book in Kickstarter history. It took that much and more to get this done the way I wanted it.
Were there any revelatory moments putting together the photographs? What stands out most?
The process of doing it and the success I had doing it. In theory, I knew what I wanted to do. One picture to a page – opposing pages – no text or page numbers. What I do is create visual harmony. I wanted people to be able to immerse themselves in the photographs. I didn’t know for certain that I had done it until I saw the printed book and then thought, this is fabulous.
Why did you decide to use a trifold sheet instead of a regular index and captions on the photos?
I decided not to put captions or page numbers on the same page as full-page photos because they would take people away from the power of a pure visual experience. The captions are in the back of the book. I also added a fold-out sheet (trifold sheet) to the Deluxe and Signature editions so that readers would not have to go back and forth to see the caption information while reading the book.
Read the full article HERE.