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Joel Bernstein2018-10-22T11:50:48+00:00

Project Description

Joel Bernstein is an acclaimed photographer whose work, spanning more than three decades, chronicles the inner lives and public moments of some of the most important musicians of our time. They include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and more. In 2018 Bernstein received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum for his contribution to photography.

Neil Young

Neil Young at home with window, near Woodside, CA, 1971. This photograph is included in the permanent collection of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, and in the book Images of Rock & Roll. 
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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.

Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, which was published in the UK on 4 October 2012, 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.”

The photograph above, taken at Young’s home near Woodside, California, was chosen for the permanent collection of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

After The Gold Rush

Neil Young passing an old woman at 3rd & Sullivan, New York City, June 1970 – After The Gold Rush album cover (solarized).
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Just 18 at the time, and for his first album cover commission, Bernstein made the heavily solarized portrait of Neil Young, with a mysterious old lady passing him,  that appeared on the front cover of After The Gold Rush (1970).

Neil Young & Graham Nash, After the Gold Rush full frame
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The original full frame version of the cover shot has 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.”

Neil Young- After the Gold Rush gatefold. Neil Young and his wife Susan, backstage between sets at the Electric Factory, Philadelphia, February 1970. Joel was amazed and delighted when Neil Young chose this for the gatefold of the After The Gold Rush album.
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Neil Young & The Stray Gators,  recording in barn at Broken Arrow Ranch, near Woodside, CA, September 1971. l-r: Kenny Buttrey, Tim Drummond, Ben Keith, Jack Nitzsche, Neil Young. Neil Young chose a cropped version of this for the back cover of the Harvest LP.
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Neil Young backstage at the Electric Factory, Philadelphia, February 1970. Published by Reprise Records as an artist poster, 1970.
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Neil Young in limo with Gretsch White Falcon, NYC, June 1970
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Harvest Gatefold – Neil Young reflected in his front door knob, Broken Arrow Ranch, September 1971. Neil Young chose this for the gatefold of the Harvest album.
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Audience after a Neil Young concert, The Spectrum, Philadelphia.  Neil Young chose a cropped and faded version for the Time Fades Away album cover.
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Rehearsing backstage at The Spectrum, Philadelphia, June, 1970. Neil Young chose this for the front cover of his Greatest Hits album & for the deluxe 4LP box of reissues of his first four albums.
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Neil Young playing his Steinway Grand piano at home near Woodside, CA, September 1971
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Neil Young profile at home, near Woodside, CA, September. 1971
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Neil Young & Kate Taylor backstage at Royce Hall, Feb 1971. Neil Young chose this for the back cover of the album Live At Massey Hall.
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 New York City, June 1970
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Neil Young driving his 1947 Buick Roadmaster “Black Beauty” through the parking garage of the Sunset Marquis Hotel, Hollywood, September  1973
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Neil Young typing inside “Pearl”,his old Cadillac, in Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, August 1974
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Reading fanmail backstage, Boston Music Hall, 1973
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Making a point about the past using the 1969 CSN&Y tour program, backstage at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA, May, 1978. Featured in Rolling Stone magazine interview by Cameron Crowe, 1978
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Casting a searching eye towards a wooden Indian onstage, during his solo concert at The Boarding House, San Francisco, CA, May, 1978. This first appeared in Rolling Stone and was later the front cover image for Pete Long’s book documenting Neil’s concerts, Ghosts on the Road.
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Neil Young sitting in his Willys-Overland Jeepster, Broken Arrow Ranch, February 1971. This image was used on the cover of North Country, Neil Young Archives Vol. 1
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Neil Young, February  1973, listening to his guitar setup during soundcheck, St. Petersburg, FL during his North American tour following the Harvest album
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Neil Young walking alongside the Berlin Wall, October 1982
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Neil Young –Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Rehearsing for tour, Broken Arrow ranch, near Woodside, CA, June 1974
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Bruce Springsteen

In 2015, Bruce Springsteen chose 75 of Joel’s images to be included in the book, package and video documentary featured in the Columbia Records/Sony Music box set The River Collection–The Ties That Bind, the highly acclaimed expanded edition of his 1981 2-LP album The River, released in December 2015.

In alley with torn poster, NYC, August 1979
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Bruce Springsteen with Palace Amusements & the Ferris Wheel behind. Asbury Park, NY October 1979.
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On the boardwalk by the Empress Hotel, Asbury Park, NJ, August, 1979. This photograph was chosen as the single sleeve for “Hungry Heart” from The River, and for the Live 1975-1985 booklet to illustrate “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”
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Bruce Springsteen photographed outside his home, NJ, October 1979
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Bruce Springsteen, straight-on portrait, outside his home, NJ, October 1979
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Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band on the roof of The Power Station, NYC, April 1980
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In front of a schoolyard in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, August, 1979
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Bruce standing in front of a schoolyard fence, NYC, August, 1979
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Bruce sitting in front of a schoolyard fence, NYC, August, 1979
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Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band – Looking tough, August 1979
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Bruce Springsteen with the E Street Band – Reservoir Dogs, August, 1979
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Driving his Ford pickup past Asbury Auto Supply, NJ, October 1979
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Bruce Springsteen outside his childhood home, New Jersey, October 1979
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Bruce driving his pickup truck down the Garden State Parkway on a rainy day in New Jersey, September, 1979. This image, erroneously credited to the great Annie Leibovitz, was used in his Songs book.
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Bruce Springsteen, at the writing table in his bedroom, Holmdel, NJ, October 1979. Bruce’s caption:  “This was the corner of my bedroom where I wrote [the albums] Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River. I wrote a lot of good songs (The River, Hungry Heart, Badlands, Prove It All Night, just to mention a few)  in that chair at that table.”
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Bruce with his Telecaster, rehearsals for The River album, NJ, October 1979
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Recording The River album at The Power Station, NYC, August 1979
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Bruce Springsteen & The “E” Street Band. Laughing, somewhere in New Jersey, August 1979
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Bruce Springsteen with Clarence Clemons, August, 1979 on a bench in Central Park, New York City
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Bruce Springsteen with Telecaster In concert with Telecaster (vertical) Oakland Coliseum, October 1980. This image was used as LP cover for Bruce Springsteen As Requested Around The World, 1981, and as the tour logo for The River Tour 2016.
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Tom Petty

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hard Promises front cover image, March, 1979
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Tom Petty mixing the Damn The Torpedoes album at Clover Studios, Hollywood, March 1979
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Tom Petty with full Moon, Hollywood, California, 1979
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Tom Petty lighting a cigarette in an alley, Hollywood, March 1979. This photograph was chosen for the single sleeve of “Refugee”, 1979
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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Waiting to go onstage, Cow Palace, San Francisco, May 1980
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Joni Mitchell

When Joel was just 16 years old, Joni Mitchell, then at the beginning of her exceptional recording career, asked him to be her photographer. Since then, he has become the most comprehensive photographer of Ms. Mitchell’s life and work, and shot several of her album covers, as well as being the acknowledged expert on her guitar compositions.

Listening, backstage at the Civic Center, Providence, RI, during her North American tour, February 1976. This image was chosen for the front cover of her Woman of Heart and Mind DVD
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Backstage at The Main Point, Bryn Mawr, PA, November 1968
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Rehearsing backstage, Mt. Vernon, NY, July 1969
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Dublin, April 1983
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Skating on Lake Mendota, Madison, WI, March 1976. This image was used on  the gatefold of her Hejira album, 1976
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Lake Mendota, March 1976
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Performing at her debut concert at Carnegie Hall, NYC, February 1969
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The freshly-penned first draft of lyrics for what became “Barangril”, written by Joni at her Hollywood Hills home, June 1972
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Bob Dylan

Soundcheck at Western Springs, Auckland, New Zealand, March 1978
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Bob Dylan playing the guitar, Hong Kong International Airport, March 1978
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Bob Dylan, Sydney, Australia, 1978
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Press conference, Rundown Studios, Santa Monica, CA, February 1978
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Biography

Joel Bernstein is an acclaimed photographer whose work, spanning more than three decades, chronicles the inner lives and public moments of some of the most important musicians of our time.

They include Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Prince, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty. In 2018 Bernstein received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum for his contribution to  photography .

A self-taught photographer and printer, Bernstein’s perspective on these artists is unique. He has been part of their intimate circle since age 16, when Joni Mitchell, then at the beginning of her exceptional recording career, asked him to be her photographer.

Since then, he has become the most comprehensive photographer of Mitchell’s life and work, and shot several of her album covers, as well as being the acknowledged expert on her guitar compositions. Bernstein also became a close friend and musical collaborator with many of his other subjects, playing and singing on their albums and concert tours. His preferred method has been to spend as much time as possible with his subjects until the right instant – the perfect moment of intimacy – reveals itself.

Bernstein’s many album covers are commonly listed among the most influential in rock’s visual history. His first, at age 18, was Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, often cited in Best Album Covers Of All Time lists. His work was featured in the album cover for Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover. Bernstein’s work was also 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.

Bernstein has continued working with these artists as archivist, editor and producer of their CD boxed sets and DVD retrospectives, researching and editing both music and artwork. This includes work with artists such as Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Graham Nash and, of course, Neil Young for his historic multi-disc Archives Volume I. Subsequent Archives releases include 2008’s acclaimed Sugar Mountain–Live at Canterbury House 1968, and Bernstein is also engaged in the production of the forthcoming Archives Volume II.

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. He was profiled in MOJO, the esteemed British music publication, which extensively featured his photos of Neil Young.

In 2018 The International Photography Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO chose Joel to be the recipient of the first Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.  Their Hall of Fame includes nearly every nineteenth and twentieth century master of photography, as well as the major innovators in the design and manufacture of cameras, lenses, and films.

He currently lives in Oakland, California.