Photos offering a rare glimpse of the iconic Woodstock Festival sold for more than $16,000 at an auction hosted by New York-based Guernsey’s Auctioneers on July 15.
The unique images, known as the Woodstock Storybook, show some of the world’s most famous rock stars performing at the one-of-a-kind festival in August 1969, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Neil Young.
They were taken by Barry Levine, 77, whose all-access pass allowed him to get up close to the performers as well as take aerial pictures from a helicopter.
The winning bidder’s identity was not released.
Barry Levine, then a producer at Columbia Records, hopped on his helicopter for the only aerial shots of the 1969 festival
Guitarist Jimi Hendrix headlined the festival, which was turned into a documentary that became a box office hit in 1970
The movie won an Academy Award, but Hendrix died of an overdose in September 1970, a little over a year after the festival
Singer Janis Joplin is one of the many rock icons Levine got close to while shooting the event
‘In less than a month I will be 78. I was 26 at Woodstock, so I just thought it was time to pass them to somebody else,’ he said.
Levine auctioned the 300 original color slides that document the three-day festival.
Several close-up shots of Jimi Hendrix sold for $4,600, while others depicting the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia sold for $3,500.
A shot of Janis Joplin performing sold for $1,300.
The only existing photo of folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young performing at the festival also sold for over $1,300. Young was a ‘purist’ who hated being photographed.
Crowds climb one of the towers at the festival. Levine said conditions were, ‘very bad. There wasn’t enough food or water.’
The only existing photo of folk rock super group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young performing at the 1969 festival (above) sold for over $1,300 alone, given that Neil Young was a ‘purist’ who hated being photographed
Levine was at the festival ‘from when it was a grassy field to a muddy field.’ Above, English blues singer Joe Crocker in tie-dye
Alvin Lee, lead vocalist and guitarist of Ten Years After, performs at Woodstock
Barry Levine, 77, took a 45 minute on a piano cover onstage
Levine’s Leica camera and press pass used for the festival sold for $3,704.
Taken together, the collection sold for $17,301.
It also includes a unique aerial view of the festival grounds at Bethel, New York, and intimate shots of those who attended.
Levine was a freelance producer for Columbia Records and is the only still photographer on the documentary film Woodstock, which was released in March 1970 and went on to become one of the year’s highest grossing documentaries.
During the festival, he took so many pictures that he had blisters on his index finger and thumb from clicking the shutter and advancing the film, according to a bio on website Rock Scene Auctions.
The only time he stopped was for a 45 minute nap on the piano cover on stage during the Blood, Sweat and Tears performance.
‘I got there on the August 17, 1969, and I was there from when it was a grassy field to a muddy field,’ he said.
‘The conditions were very bad. There wasn’t enough food or water but everyone lived in peace and love. The feeling was palpable – this was the life people had been waiting for, to live freely and govern themselves.
‘I had an all-access pass, which enabled me to go any place I wanted. I had my own helicopter so I was the only photographer who had the aerial shots.’
The collection was sold at a Guernsey’s auction in New York to an unknown bidder on July 15
The entire collection, including memorabilia, netted more than $17,000 in total. Pictured, a couple at the event in 1969
Photos of The Who’s Pete Townshend (left) and Roger Daltrey (right) form part of Levine’s set of 300 color slides of the three-day festival
While the festival organizers were left bankrupt by the event itself, they made their money back from the film and recording rights.
The ‘three days of peace and love,’ were held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, a few miles away from the town of Woodstock, and attracted 400,000 people, many of whom entered without tickets.