Fifty years ago, nearly half a million people convened at Max Yasgur‘s farm in Bethel, New York, for the first Woodstock Arts & Music Festival in August 1969. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: Three Days of Peace and Music,” the event featured now-iconic sets from acts like Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In an era before large-scale festivals were the norm and well before the advent of cell phones, the weekend was marked by issues with traffic, weather, overpopulation and under-preparation. But Woodstock is still considered one of the era’s most memorable and critical cultural junctures, an event that defined the spirit of a generation and would come to represent it.
TIME asked some of the photographers who documented that weekend of music, community and mayhem to tell us which of the images they made at the festival stick with them all these decades later. From the music to the human moments that endured, here’s what photographers Baron Wolman, Ron Frem, Barry Z. Levine, Elliott Landy and Burk Uzzle had to say about the indelible photos they captured during those three days. Above all, what stands out are the interactions between members of the crowd—people learning how to get by in subpar conditions, finding love and solidarity in a mass of humanity and exercising a newfound sense of freedom.
Baron Wolman, Getty Images contributor
Baron Wolman—Getty ImagesFestival goers on their way to Woodstock, in August 1969.
All summer long, my friend, the acclaimed photographer Jim Marshall, and I had been shotgun riders as we traversed the country photographing a variety of music festivals. Woodstock trumped them all—there was no way to compare what we came upon that August weekend in Bethel to any other concert anywhere, ever. I was fascinated, captivated, enchanted and transfixed by the crowd, the hundreds of thousands of kind and gentle souls who made the trek to Yasgur’s farm. It was the people upon whom I focused my cameras. I wandered among them daily, taking pictures, building a personal diary of three miraculous days that I somehow knew were both a promise and an aberration.
When I look at my photograph, “Walking to Woodstock,” I see young people walking together to follow a shared dream, together. It makes me think of Joni Mitchell’s poignant song, “Woodstock,” although she wasn’t even there:
I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
As I know firsthand, the traffic didn’t deter them, the long walk didn’t deter them, the weather didn’t deter them, the large crowd didn’t deter them… They were part of a loose-knit, and yet still identifiable, community from all over the country which believed in a world …read more
Source:: Time – Entertainment