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.