It was right before the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 that I realized I wanted to be a rock and roll photographer. I had been experimenting in my dark room with a photo technique that added texture to the image, which rendered it slightly abstract.
I read about the Festival coming to town and set out to meet the Producers Lou Adler and John Phillips. I spotted them arriving in Monterey for a publicized meeting at the City Council. There were no crowds of people waiting for them, and I seized the opportunity to approach Lou Adler and show him one of my abstract photos. Lou said, “that’s cool,” and he invited me in.
That was a moment I have relived many times as it literally launched my career as a photographer. The next thing I knew Derek Taylor (the PR agent for the Beatles) gave me a full access press passes to the Festival.
A week later I was backstage at the first Rock Festival of it’s kind-The Monterey International Pop Festival. I took a lot of photos of the hip looking people in the audience as well as what was happening on stage.
In front of me was Janis Joplin singing “Down on Me,” The Who, The Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, the Mamas and the Papas, and of course- there was Jimi. The seven-foot stage at the Festival made it really difficult to get a good shot that didn’t have a view right up the musician’s noses. Technically the light, stage height, and my angle for Jimi was all off. I did get 1 shot and it has been a CD cover.
Little did I know that a year later I would be photographing album covers for many of the performers at The Pop.
The Monterey Pop Festival was a stepping stone into my career as an album cover artist and photographer.
For information about photography by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, visit his website