Neil Young: photographs by Joel Bernstein

4th October to 10th November 2012

The first UK exhibition for acclaimed photographer Joel Bernstein, featuring some of the best work from his Neil Young archives

We are delighted to present an exhibition of photographs of Neil Young by acclaimed US photographer Joel Bernstein. 

This exhibition kicks off on Thursday 4 October at 11.00am at the gallery, but images from the exhibition are online now. They are available to purchase in a range of physical sizes to suit your wall space. This is the first time that Neil Young has been the subject of one of our gallery exhibits, and I am quite embarrassed that it has taken me this long! Well, we're making up for the delay with this exquisite body of work. We have deliberately kept the selection small and intimate, because less is more, and we wanted to concentrate on some absolute key pieces from Joel's incredible archive. Visitors to the gallery will of course get to hear some classic Neil Young tracks while they view the photographs. I have to also tell you that Joel's physical prints are absolutely exquisite, and the images online don't do them justice in the flesh. Come and see for yourself.

Just 18 at the time, and for his first album cover commission, Bernstein made the heavily solarized portrait of Neil Young that appeared on the front cover of After The Gold Rush (1970), and his images have appeared on subsequent Neil Young albums including Harvest (1972), Time Fades Away (1973) among others.

You'll be familiar with many images, I'm sure. The photograph above right is a particular favourite of mine, and deserves its full front page coverage on our exhibition catalogue. It was taken at Neil Young's home near Woodside, California, in September 1971. It has a magical quality. Don't just take my word for it though: it was chosen for the permanent collection of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.

Other personal favourites include:

  • the back cover shot from Harvest of Neil Young and the Stray Gators,
  • Neil in his 1947 Buick Roadmaster,
  • Neil in a limo with a Gretsch White Falcon ( which would look amazing in a 30x40 inch paper size),
  • and the original full frame version of the After the Gold Rush cover shot, with Graham Nash appearing on the right of the frame, with Neil and the old lady. This makes a nice contrast with the solarized album cover shot, and the two work well as a pair together. Interestingly, the old lady appearing on the cover shot was no accident. Here's Joel on how the old woman came to be in the frame: "The photo was not "a mistake." I saw the small, old woman coming towards us down the sidewalk, was intrigued, and wanted to catch her passing Neil. The mistake, to me, was that I had in my haste focused the lens just past the two figures, closer to the fence than to Neil's face. That was the original reason why I made a small-sized print and solarized it; to help with the apparent sharpness. But the solarization in this case added a somewhat spooky dimension to the image, which Neil took to immediately."

Joel Bernstein’s relationship with Neil Young extends way beyond that of photographer and subject. Bernstein is Neil Young’s archivist, and was instrumental in the research and production of the acclaimed Neil Young Archives box set. He estimates that he has made at least 10,000 photographs of Young since 1970. Bernstein also believes that he has spent  “19 ½ years – and one day” in archiving Neil Young’s recorded output.

The exhibition, which runs from 4 October to 10 November 2012, coincides with the release of Neil Young’s long awaited autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, which is published in the UK on 4 October 2012, and which features a number of Joel's photographs. Famously Neil Young once said: “The weakness of an autobiography is the lack of perspective of the person who's writing it. So, for that reason, I'll never write an autobiography. Never. I told Pegi, "Never let me do it." There's no reason.” Joel puts some perspective on this: “Neil is like a lighthouse beam. He has an incredibly intense focus in a very narrow area to the exclusion of all else. He does what he wants to do when he wants to do it and doesn't do what he doesn't want to do when he doesn't want to do it."

Joel’s work was the inspiration for the look of Cameron Crowe’s well-received rock film Almost Famous, in which many scenes were precise re-creations of Bernstein’s photographs. Cameron Crowe said of Bernstein’s work: “As a photographer, Joel shoots like a fellow musician. Bernstein blends in, using all the resources of his understanding of the songs, the instruments,  the subject, and the people.  There is soul and movement and most of all, music, in every one of Joel’s images. This is what it looked like, and this is what it felt like.”

Joel Bernstein’s wider archive spans more than three decades, and chronicles the inner lives and public moments of some of the most important musicians of our time. They include Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Prince, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty. Bernstein’s work is well known within the world of music, and is included in the permanent collection of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. He has been published in a wide spectrum of books on music, musicians, and the music business, as well as in Time, The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Neil Young: photographs by Joel Bernstein is his first UK exhibition of work from his Neil Young photographic archives.

Limited edition photographs, signed by Joel Bernstein, are available to purchase in a range of sizes.Click on these thumbnails, and you will see individual images with prices and sizes.

And while it doesn't show prices, the catalogue below has a nice page-turning function - check it out full screen for maximum effect.