Barry Feinstein (1931-2011)
Barry Feinstein, the crafter of iconic pop culture images in the 1960s, is dead, aged 80.
The serendipitous meeting that transformed Barry Feinstein’s career took place in the early 1960s at the office of a longtime friend. That friend, Albert Grossman was then the manager of Bob Dylan, and thus began Mr. Feinstein’s close and enduring association with the legendary singer. Just before Dylan achieved his greatest fame, the duo travelled across America in a Rolls-Royce Grossman had bought in California and needed it driven east. Later, Feinstein would accompany Dylan on the European portion of a 1966 world tour and the 1974 Dylan and the Band tour.
It was during the former tour that he took the photo above; the iconic photo, taken in London in 1966, shows the singer in the back of a limousine smoking a cigarette and gazing straight ahead through dark sunglasses, seemingly oblivious to the imploring fans and the intrusive flashbulbs pressed against the window. In other unforgettable images from that tour, the singer was shown huddled in a seat in an otherwise empty Royal Albert Hall, playing with children in Liverpool and standing on a ferry dock in Australia, a photo later used as the cover for Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home.
“Just in their stark atmosphere, I liked the angles Barry used,” Dylan noted, no doubt thinking about the foreboding photo taken from below that graced the cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” — a portrait that recalled an earlier era of dustbowl hobo troubadours.
Barry Feinstein shot more than 500 album covers, and three established him as one of rock’s premier chroniclers. On the cover of Janis Joplin’s posthumous and final album was Feinstein’s photo of the troubled singer, taken the day before she died. For the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, he used the image of a dirty toilet in a graffiti covered bathroom taken at a bathroom at a Porsche repair shop in Los Angeles. The distributors believed it was too explicit for release and replaced it with a sparse white cover. And for “All Things Must Pass,” his first album after the breakup of the Beatles, George Harrison portentously posed for Feinstein amidst a pile of four toppled, garden gnomes. Mr. Feinstein recalled that for this album, he photographed George Harrison for days outside the singer’s home at Friar Park:
“Then someone called and told [Harrison] that the gnomes that were stolen from Friar Park in about 1871 could be bought back. They asked him if he wanted to buy them back. He said, ‘Sure.’ They brought them back and laid them on the lawn. We went out and looked at them. I said, ‘There’s the cover.’ We didn’t move a thing. In about two minutes, we had the cover. It was spontaneous.”
Most of his best work was shot in black-and-white, using high contrast film and no flash; he preferred natural light, just like that other giant of American photography, Robert Frank, to whom he was oft-compared to. He had no formal photography training and began his career as a photographer for Columbia Pictures, taking memorable images of Steve McQueen on set of his most famous film, Bullitt. He captured a heartbroken Marlene Dietrich at Gary Cooper’s funeral and a feisty Marlon Brando at a civil rights march facing counterdemonstrators taunting him with racist signs. He was called to Marilyn Monore’s home after she had been found dead; among the shots he took was one of the bottle of pills on her bedside table, “a chilling image of the reality behind the glittering facade of her celebrity” The Times commented.
And fittingly for someone, who more than any one else, has captured those realities, angst and hippiness of that 60s generation, Mr. Feinstein died last week at his longtime abode in Woodstock. He was 80.