For decades, Neil Young has served as muse and subject for some of rock's most legendary photographers. "Long May You Run: A Neil Young Retrospective," an exhibition on view at New York's Morrison Hotel Gallery through December 26th – and opening at the gallery's Maui location on January 13th – features images of the singer-songwriter stretching from the Buffalo Springfield days up through his recent performances with current live band Promise of the Real, as captured by Julie Gardner, Joel Bernstein, Henry Diltz and Danny Clinch. Below see a selection of images from the show, with commentary from the respective photographers.
Diltz: "Early in the Buffalo Springfield days I bumped into Neil and Stephen in Sausalito, California. I happened to have my camera along, so we spent the afternoon taking a few photos by the bay."
Diltz: "Neil Young has collected classic cars all of his life. This woodie station wagon was one of the earliest ones in his collection. He had just bought it, and with screwdriver in hand was figuring out what refurbishing he would do first."
Diltz: "We were walking around Neil Young's ranch one morning and stopped in one of his little barns to look at some guitars. I turned around and saw Neil standing outside looking down the road with his little dog, Harte, at his feet. It looked so pastoral with the herd of cows on the hill behind him that I quickly took a picture."
Bernstein: "Neil Young and his wife Susan, backstage at the Electric Factory, February 1970, before a show with his band Crazy Horse that featured a 20-minute rendition of 'Down by the River.' I was surprised that they were OK with my photographing them backstage and was thrilled when Neil chose this for the gatefold of his next album, After the Gold Rush."
Bernstein: "Neil Young, searching for a decent tone out his Gibson Flying V guitar, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1973."
Clinch: "The review mirror picture was taken down in Nashville when Neil was playing the Ryman and when Jonathan Demme was filming the documentary Heart of Gold. I was told that I'd only have a short window of time to get some shots of Neil in and around the hotel, but I wanted to try and take some pictures at the Ryman. I knew Neil had a passion for old cars, the same as I do, so I looked in the paper and found a guy – an old musician – who was selling his 1948 Cadillac. I offered him $100 to drive the car over to the hotel and let me use it for the shoot. I told Neil about the car and after we did a few photos in it, his tour manager started to say we needed to wrap things up. But before he could finish Neil said, 'Oh, no. We are gonna drive this car to the theater.' On the way there, I got this picture."
Clinch: "The photo of Neil drinking tea was taken at the Fox Theater in Northern California during rehearsals for the tour. It was a mixture of different members of Crazy Horse with Ralph sitting next to Neil and Ben Keith just out of the frame. They were discussing the songs Neil would usually play with his other band, only now they were mixing it up – you didn't normally have Ben Keith playing on some of these songs. They were laughing and going over songs and just having a good time. I love how casual it is – his shoes are off, drinking a cup of tea. Personally, I'm a little envious that this isn't my job – to sit around with my friends, playing and talking about music and drinking tea. … but it is pretty cool that I get to photograph them doing this."
Clinch: "Mirrors picture was also taken at the Fox Theater during rehearsals. One thing I was asked to do was document the behind-the-scenes stuff for the website or a tour book. They put aside a little bit of time for me to take some portraits of Neil and knowing he's not the kind of guy who likes to take direction about where to look or how to stand in a photograph, I spent some time wandering around and scouting out a cool location in the theater that I knew would make a cool photo. I found these cool, Art Deco circular windows and with the way the light was coming through them, I knew it was a pretty cool spot for an individual shot of Neil."
Gardner: "What I love about the pictures I took of Neil like this, his silhouettes, is that they are so intimate. Neil is obviously performing here in front of a crowd of thousands of people. But from the angle I took this photo, which was onstage behind him while he was performing, you can really just see Neil – the person, a lone figure, with his guitar, making music."
Gardner: "My shot from Philadelphia in 2010 was part of the Neil Young and Crazy Horse tour around the east coast of America. For these Crazy Horse tours Neil had huge sets on stage as you can see, (the "Fender amps" behind Neil). Inside these sets were the actual guitar amps. What you can see here is Neil with his hand inside a slot on the "set amp" and playing with his real amp inside to get maximum feedback on his guitar. Neil is so intensely into the moment and his music. (In Australia, when Neil was touring with Crazy Horse in 2013 – I took some pictures of Neil playing piano from inside these amp sets.)"
Gardner: "This picture is just so 'Neil.' Even though he is onstage with the band (Promise of the Real), this shot feels quite intimate. Neil is so completely and so intensely focused.
"Neil moves from intensely, almost 'private' moments on stage where he is completely one with his music to times where he is interacting with the band, to moments where he is connecting with the audience. His shows are a dance like this – in and out of intense, private moments to sharing and lightness."