Burk Uzzle's photos of Woodstock

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In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, New York's Laurence Miller Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Burk Uzzle's magnificent photographs of the event. The iconic images can also be seen online. From the gallery site:
Burk Uzzle shot the festival from the vantage point of a participant. In one particularly telling photograph, a sea of humanity as dense as a carpet of wildflowers in a meadow spills over a hillside; in another, a young hippie couple standing in a tender embrace under a grandmother’s quilt became the icon of a generation. Rather than document the music, Uzzle chose to focus on details of living, existence, and enjoyment over that three day period. In so doing, he captured the spirit of the festival and ultimately an era.
Burk Uzzle Woodstock: 40th Anniversary


  1. “Was “Woodstock 99″ the one where the little mindless snotty brats BURNED DOWN many of the vendor tents and danced on the smoldering rubble?”

    I disagree with your sentiment. The kids recognized that they were being preyed upon by vendors and by a system designed to pump their cash into vendor’s hands. The kids were being exploited and they knew it and they decided to take matters into their own hands.

    It’s the American way in the best sense: We own the system, and if it becomes (intolerably) corrupt we have the duty to burn it down.

  2. #4 posted by Keeper of the Lantern

    im pretty sure they just saw an oppertunity to destroy other peoples property and get away with it. any altruistic notions of fighting corruption are nothing but romantic bullshit.

    perhaps im wrong, perhaps the rapes and assaults were just part and parcel of fighting the system on a grass root level.

  3. It’s an interesting (and to me completely alien) mindset and view of what’s important and what’s not– sleeping with a crowd in a field of mud with inadequate plumbing sounds downright hellish, no matter what music’s playing.

    I imagine some people prefer feeling part of a large group (which this gave in spades, apparently) and others prefer private and personal comforts. Probably explains a bit of politics, there.

  4. After attending some raves in the 90s, I came to the following revelation:

    People on drugs should not be trusted to maintain sanitation.

  5. I wasn’t at Woodstock and won’t try to systemically defend it but the comments here seem surprisingly cynical. My take on it is that it was a big experiment that worked in some ways and told us things about the behavior of hundreds of thousands of people (of that era) who went towards something and tried to make it work in less than completely pleasant circumstances. Lots of kids today might whine themselves to death in the same situation. And they would have to be wearing certain pricey fashions to go and no one would listen to the music because they would be texting. Now *I* am being all cynical and snarky!

    OK: for me, of the things that came out of the event, Jimi Hendrix’s set alone was an incredible treasure. I thank the nonexistent gods for that.

  6. Think as people search for a “new” experience the days of hippie may roll back into our culture once more.

    40 years of memories and its original theme has been corrupted over time, but has not most things

  7. I had the opportunity to talk with a New York state police officer who was one of a very few assigned to watch over Woodstock. He said it was a very peaceful event. The police just stood by their cars, and let the kids do their thing.

  8. Stonewall riots… moon landing… woodstock.
    Every year these anniversaries.
    But the ones with nice round numbers are best.

  9. Hawley:
    I never heard about rapes or assaults, so maybe my comment was based on insufficient information.

    And also, I wasn’t exactly trying to say they had developed some kind of philosophical approach and then started burning things down. It was, from what I could tell, a sheer expression of rage.

    But what I did hear is that food and drinks could not be brought into the area, while the booths set extremely high ripoff prices to this captive audience. They also say the bathrooms were completely insufficient and that security guards had been extremely aggressive.

  10. To paraphrase Mad magazine, that much purer avatar of our nation’s revolutionary spirit: Blecch.

  11. no one was forced to attend that festival, no one was forced to buy anything from any booth.

    every single person who went to woodstock 99 had the option to leave at any time, yet they decided to riot and destroy everything around them instead.

    the festival planers were morons for thinking they could get away with banning food/water and try to sell it at rip off prices. but they still get more sympathy from me than those idiots who trashed the place

  12. Drugstore Cowboy

    Bob: All these kids, they’re all TV babies. Watching people killing and fucking each other on the boob tube for so long it’s all they know. Hell, they think it’s legal. They think it’s the right thing to do.

  13. @3 Dorothy

    “What has Jimi Hendrix done lately?”

    The same thing as Beethoven and Mozart. And your point is?

    I guess you blame troubled young people for dying young.

    “I wish I was of Woodstock age so I could have seen Sha Na Na – they had a lot more energy than The Who OR Hendrix.”

    Except Sha Na Na was a novelty act which had no staying power, whereas Hendrix and The Who were trying to *say* something. Hendrix is *still* considered the Everest of rock guitarists.

    I wish you were of Woodstock age too…so you wouldn’t be so abysmally ignorant of those times. That’s life.

    Woodstock was about a feeling of community and shared values. It wasn’t about the frenetic dancing by a 50s revival group (Sha Na Na).

    You want energy? Plug yourself into an electric outlet.

  14. Burk Uzzle was a participant so these photos are similar to a first-person documentary. His focus on the people rather than the music is a unique and refreshing approach to Woodstock.

  15. it wouldn’t be the internet if there wasn’t some bitter person complaining about how ________ was responsible for the downfall of society

  16. @#1
    I’ll take hippie culture over the negativity I see in the (overall) culture of today. The youth culture of 40 years ago was not jaded, did not suffer from low attention spans of today, and had the courage to believe they could change the world, even if that was a bit over-optimistic. Woostock was about music and arts, the cornerstones of culture. It showed the world that 300,000 young people can come together under adverse conditions and have such a great time ,that we are still talking about it 40 years later.

  17. Hawley wrote…

    “no one was forced to attend that festival, no one was forced to buy anything from any booth”

    Yes, but I think those youngins went thinking there’d be kind of a spirit of Woodstock there, as opposed to merely a commercial venture designed to make money…by extracting it from them.

    And let’s remember that, when you surrender your drinks upon entry, it’s not like you know what the prices are going to be. By that time, you are forced to buy at extremely high prices or else you go hungry or thirsty or else leave and forfeit your ticket.

    The kids chose a fourth option…

  18. Being around folks who make quilts, I can only look at the image of “a young hippie couple standing in a tender embrace under a grandmother’s quilt” in abject horror. If them dang hippies had any idea how much time and effort went into that quilt, or, even better, if they’d had the gumption to try making one themselves, there’s no way in hell they’d be trashing it like that. Young fools!

  19. #20 posted by Keeper of the Lantern

    “Yes, but I think those youngins went thinking there’d be kind of a spirit of Woodstock there,”

    woodstock was nothing but a drug fueled hippy toilet with bad music …. so i guess the youngins got what they came for.

  20. Surrender Dorothy. The weather sucked, the brown acid sucked, and a lot of bands like the Dead and Hendrix, who was exhausted and playing with an under rehearsed band that included a second guitarist(!), did not play their best. But…

    All those youngins got to be together in one place and have a terrific time. They got a sense of their numbers and a feeling of unity and comradery. That must have been pretty invigorating and inspirational. They saw how much of a community they could be potentially be.

    Where is genuine, unmarketed community today, especially for the young? It’s dead or dying for most places. Thank god for BURNING MAN!!

  21. Re: those d*mn hippies, cuddling in the mud under that beautiful quilt…

    It reminds me of our quilt. It was a wedding gift, in a double ring pattern, sewn for us by my wife’s beloved grandmother. She’s dead now, but before she died, she was perhaps the most important person in my wife’s life. My wife picked the pattern, and the fabrics, and Mimi made the quilt.

    It is, to be honest, not well made. She was nearly blind near the end, though she would never admit it. The pieces are not cut precisely. The seams wander, an inch or so from their designed location. Working the pieces in a sewing machine, by feel, she did the best she could, in many hours of manual labor, to create something both symbolic, and useful. This quilt is, needless to say, priceless and irreplaceable.

    And we sleep under it every night. It gets dirty. The kids jump on it, and make forts with it. The dogs pee on it. We put it though the washing machine. And then back onto the bed.

    It’s a living object. It’s survived seventeen years of this abuse so far. With a little luck, maybe it’ll survive thirty-seven more. I don’t think Mimi would be unhappy with how we’re treating her quilt. There may be people who make quilts for museums, but she wasn’t one of them. She made an active, useful, physical object, for us, two physical people. I think she’d be happy that her work was keeping us warm at night. And looking at the obvious love that that Woodstock quilt is covering, I don’t think its maker would be unhappy either.

  22. Where is genuine, unmarketed community today, especially for the young? It’s dead or dying for most places.

    The internet?

    No, wait – I’m serious. Get to feel a sense of belonging and numbers, share new ideas, find inspiration and new non-mainstream thought leaders?

    Yeah, it’s the internet.

    ASIDE: Which made the comment above about ‘kids these days’ not being able to appreciate a Woodstock-like-festival because they would be too busy texting/twittering so amusing. Because that’s how THIS generation is connecting, just as Woodstock and hippiedom otherwise was how the past generation connected, and how previous generations from them had their own methods. You realize by saying “why do kids these days spend so much time twittering, why aren’t they using music and expression festivals to form communities like we did?” that you have become your parents.

  23. The fact that so many people could show up for a concert where both the sponsors and the fans were so unprepared and yet there were virtually no fights or murders is amazing to me. I tip my hat to you Boomers, you folks stopped a war, made some awesome music, and changed the American social landscape. You RESPONSIBLY experimented with drugs and sex without marriage and a host of other taboos. Truly, the world would be a much different and probably darker place without you.

    So uh, why’d you all vote for Reagan in ’80?

  24. @31

    Hey, Dorothy

    I’ve seen you run your depressing mouth on enough posts here to realize that you won’t be happy until you ruin things for others.

    Altamont was a disaster b/c the Hells Angels provided “security.” A stupid idea, but it’s got NOTHING to do with Woodstock.

    And the US Festival was paid for in full by Steve Wosniak; it wasn’t an Apple event, so you are just plain wrong, as usual. There may have been Apple products there, but it was *his* (and Jobs) company, so what do you expect?

    You missed the “energy” of Sha Na Na? That’s not all you’ve missed. Besides having no taste in music, and misunderstanding the significance of Woodstock ’69, you’ve managed to misunderstand almost everything else you’ve mentioned.


  25. Yeah, it’s the internet.

    you seem to have left the sex out. the dirty hippies soiling their gramma’s quilt got laid last night. given a choice between TPC/IP and ta-ta’s, only a luser chooses RFC 793.

    also the drugs. maybe they arent yr cuppa tea, but as far as a sense of belonging, new ideas, etc., LSD makes that grade.

    at least you can get the rock and roll (even sha-na-na) at US$0.99 per song. whoopee, freedom!

  26. #18 rock on brother

    And now the kids today are all net babiesâ„¢, growing up watching depraved porn and snuff vids on their cell phones, using each others’ information to drive each other towards social ruin or suicide for so long that it’s all they know. Hell, they think it’s legal, it’s the right thing to do.

  27. “Missed it by THAT much” – somehow didn’t hear of it until it was over, but then again I was just 15 and probably wouldn’t have had the money to make it up there and back… heard about it 2nd and 3rd hand. It sounded like a lot of good music, and until the movie came out I didn’t hear about the sex and drugs somehow.

    I don’t know if Woodstock defined my slightly-older peers, or they defined Woodstock.

    @#31: good post. Quilts are made to be used, not hung on a wall as art.

  28. Maybe they don’t want to get yelled at? Or made to feel inferior? Then again, who does? Peace out people….

  29. While you guys are here with your rose-tinted glasses and youth-hating, there are some teens on your lawn in need of fist waving and yelling. You better get at them before they trample your expensive perennial beds.

  30. I tend to side with the point of view that Woodstock ’69 was one of the great self-mythologizing events in history. It wasn’t free (it was financed by advance ticket sales; the rest of the attendees gatecrashed); the attendance was higher than expected, but not near half a million; most people were too far away to hear the music; while there wasn’t violent crime, quite a few people had their tents and sleeping bags stolen by other people who had shown up completely unprepared to spend three days outside; and there was a near-disaster when an exposed power cable almost had its insulation worn away by attendees during the rain. (I got most of the information above from a book about it written mostly from the perspective of John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, the “money men” who financed it, who were probably bitter at losing a small fortune on the event. When Henry Rollins, performing at Woodstock ’94, announced from the stage that the sequel was being put on by hippies who were too stoned the first time around to make any money off of it, he was probably smack-dab on target.)

    And, yeah, there were some good times had by some, I’m sure. But, you know, that couple in the first photo? They don’t look like happy hippies to me, they look like survivors.

  31. ya know what? The people who went there had no idea what later generations would make of it and didn’t care. It was a happening and it happened to them.
    So why don’t all the critics go make their own?

  32. @47 Takuan- Perhaps the critics enjoy good plumbing, soft beds, and music that can be heard clearly?

    In which case, the critics _did_ make their own…

  33. Okay… I’ve studied all the photos, and I can’t see that little yellow bird ANYWHERE! I even looked for his friend Snoopy, figuring he’d be easier to spot and could provide a point-of-reference, but he seems to be absent as well.

    (Before anyone takes me to task, I’m joking, of course!)

  34. @43 no flowers to crush here, pal. anybody show up on my lawn uninvited gets a quick chance to explain themselves before the sheriff arrives, unless they want to push it in which case i am ready.

    the hostas all get eaten by the deer, but the machete is by the door. you think everyone over 22 is some kind of rich mf with nothing to do but complain?

    last guy actually asked if he could hide out, because somebody was chasing him. got nothing against youth, i was one myself once, and slightly dangerous but fully despised. i know why kids shoudna be trusted, you see?

    texting! kee-rist on a wikian! the only texts i get are sent by my old buddy nagios. fun happens in the real world with real people who get old eventually, having paid the price for their youthful stupidity. looks like nobody is ever going to grow up ever again, though. youll all stay 17 forever, with free candy and downloads. meanwhile, telco & bofh’s will make a living providing you with your tv in your pocket so that you will never be alone.

  35. #51, the first part of your response is hilarious and more than I could have hoped when I posted my initial statement.

    The second part is hilarious because, uh, it kinda proves my point. When was the last time you met a young person, anyway? Has it really been that long? Since you yourself were young, I mean.

    I just finished a live video chat with a friend who on a break from 3 months hoboing about this great country on the rails. He’s 24, and there are thousands like him. Heck, I’ve got friends all over the world living life doing things you’d never imagine, just as I’m sure you had in you youth and probably do today. People don’t really change much, Mr. Brown, stereotypes and tools do.

    1. What’s that taste in my mouth? Hmm. Bitter.

      My heart goes out to those of you who haven’t dropped acid, gotten laid in a ditch or forgotten your own name since Woodstock.

  36. That young couple isn’t sharing an embrace young under some grandmother’s quilt…that so-called quilt has the standard s-shaped top stitching of a machine-made comforter from JC Penney, circa 1969. To call that a quilt is to insult quilts.

  37. That photo of the quilted hippes hugging that was the cover of the live woodstock album- my friends and I when really young convinced each other it was Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix hugging each other. Finally I realized, who told us that? But look…could it be?

  38. Beezy @ 54 – I was thinking much the same thing – it’s been quickly quilted but it’s not patchwork.

    I still hope it washed out ok though.

  39. I’m sure Woodstock was not perfect, but from everything I’ve read and seen and heard from people who attended, it was pretty amazing.

    There’s something about LSD that a friend once told me (and the chemistry may bear out), that it’s like getting a little taste of insanity, and in moderation maybe that’s a good thing. Woodstock reminds me of that: for all the rain and mud and shortages and traffic and general insanity, those people came out of it both as survivors of an ordeal, and witnesses to singularly impressive historic event. A fair trade-off, I think.

    So to all the bitters harshing on my mellow, I say “quit being so uptight, man.”

    Those color photos of the naked hippies with flowers in their hair are quite touching; what’s that line from Joni’s song? Something about “we’ve got to get ourselves back to The Garden.”

  40. Words and Music by Joni Mitchell
    © 1969 by Siquomb Publishing Co.

    Well, I came upon a child of God
    He was walking along the road
    And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going?
    This he told me

    Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm,
    Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
    Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    Well, then can I roam beside you?
    I have come to lose the smog,
    And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning.
    And maybe it’s the time of year,
    Yes and maybe it’s the time of man.
    And I don’t know who I am,
    But life is for learning.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    By the time we got to Woodstock,
    We were half a million strong
    And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
    And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
    Riding shotgun in the sky,
    Turning into butterflies
    Above our nation.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are caught in the devils bargain,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

  41. @52, i dont need it, i dont want it and you can have it. stay young forever why dont you, and ill just remain the tool that i am.

    antonius, im not bitter just mean and slightly demented. also, im glad to learn that no heirlooms were harmed by hippies huddling in the mud.

  42. @Brown:

    …also the drugs. maybe they arent yr cuppa tea, but as far as a sense of belonging, new ideas, etc., LSD makes that grade.

    Cyberspace + LSD = cyberdelic

  43. “I tip my hat to you Boomers, you folks stopped a war, made some awesome music, and changed the American social landscape. You RESPONSIBLY experimented with drugs and sex without marriage and a host of other taboos. Truly, the world would be a much different and probably darker place without you.”

    Thank you, ToolBag.

  44. #40

    so why aren’t the kids talking here?

    Because they’re out at something they’ve organised themselves, cranked up on designer amphetamines, listening to music we don’t understand, having sex and being so cool they would give William Gibson an aneurysm. Hopefully. If they’re not, something is totally fucked.

  45. In the Wilson Daily (north carolina) times where Uzzle lives they showed how that couple that Uzzle photographed that was used on the Woodstock LP looks like now.
    Old and fat like the rest of us that were there.
    Well may be not fat.
    I have seen better photo’s from that lovefest than
    Uzzle’s but not as commercially known as his.

    Better to have one good photoshoot or book that
    lives on than none at all.

  46. Heh. Mr Brown, I wasn’t calling you a tool. Just saying that tools (like the internet) change. You can’t just assume that we (young people) are all helpless, joyless and glued to our computer simply because we grew up with the internet. Just like I can’t assume everyone of the Woodstock generation was happy, in love with life and full of drugs.

    As to what you don’t need or want, I can’t say I know what you’re talking about.

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