August 14, 2009

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What brought you to Woodstock? How did you find out about Woodstock?

I had taken my wife and sons, age 9 and 10, to the Neversink trout stream a few miles from the event. We were camping out and fishing. Our plan was to drive to the festival and hear some music every day, and return every night to our camp. Once in it was very hard to get out, so we stayed. Eventually my wife and sons left and I stayed until the end.

What is your most vivid memory of the weekend?

I had quickly made the decision to largely ignore the stage, what with all that was happening over the hills and around the water. The folks taking their clothes off, and becoming a population of peace and love, was my strongest memory.

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What images of yours best represent your personal experience at Woodstock? Do you have a back-story of an image you’d like to share?

The album cover image of the two people holding each other wrapped in a blanket at dawn has become known as the definitive picture of the Woodstock experience. One thing that is interesting is that it was taken with borrowed color film. I had declined a magazine assignment to photograph the event. I hate working for editors, who love to tell people what they are supposed to be seeing. So I was there not as a professional photographer, but as a guy with a couple of  Leicas, a couple of kids, a wife, and a pocketful of B&W film. I Kept going down to the stage to tell my friends about what I was seeing on the other side of the hills, and they kept telling me they had to stay by the stage and take the pictures the editors wanted, so I borrowed a few rolls of color film. Otherwise, that picture could not have been done in color.

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How do you feel about the way Woodstock is portrayed in the media 40 years later? Does it match up to your experiences?

For me, nothing can match the experience of the original Woodstock. American Culture turned on a dime with that event, and offered hope that we could all get along in a different way. Coming at the tail end of a violent and turbulent decade of civil rights, deaths of leaders, Vietnam, and all the rest. Woodstock told a doubtful world of a different possibility. In the past 40 years I have had no desire at all to go back to the site or to attend any of the attempted remakes of the experience. How could it be the same? The times are different now. I don’t want those powerful and precious memories dulled by attempted commercialization of the original, spontaneous manifestation of better possibilities.

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To see more of Burk’s work visit his website at www.burkuzzle.com