R5 A Gallery of Mount Vernon Photographer Harry Sandler's Pictures of Musicians and Concerts

When his father gave him a Polaroid camera at the age of 8, Harry Sandler fell in love with photography.  

And, although his main career was in the music industry (ultimately as a tour director) from 1966 until he retired in 2008, he never put down his camera. He took photographs the whole time—for himself, as well as for magazines including Rolling Stone, Circus, and Crawdaddy! as “moonlighting assignments,” says the 68-year-old, who grew up in the Bronx and today lives in Mount Vernon. “Many were taken at Madison Square Garden during concerts. I was paid twenty-five to fifty dollars per shot, which was cool because rent was thirty a month.”

Some of the following images were taken using film. Others—snapped after 2003—were taken with digital cameras, with some shots being reprocessed on an iPhone 4S. Sandler’s actually only semi-retired; he conducts digital photography workshops, including iPhone photography workshops, at thelastpixel show.org and harrysandler.com.

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Mick Jagger in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, during the first stop on a 1975 Stones tour. “Mick [Jagger] was always cordial, but I can’t say I knew him well. Keith Richards’s book, Life, describes all the craziness that went on during that tour. This was the first of four shows, and I shot hundreds of photos for Circus magazine. It was one of my initial professional photography jobs; I was quite nervous to do it, but in a good, excited way. It was wild!”
Peter Frampton circa 1975 at Sandler’s 22nd Street studio in Manhattan—before the release of the phenomenally successful Frampton Comes Alive! “It’s a seminal album and one of my all-time favorites. We first met prior to him becoming a star. He’s a straightforward, cool guy.”
Gregg Allman in 1972 at an outdoor concert at a racetrack in Trenton, New Jersey, soon after his brother Duane died. “The first and last contact I had with him,” Sandler says. “What a great singer and performer. Unfortunately, the group was overwhelmed with lots of different tragedies and hardcore drugs.”
Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk playing at a 1974 benefit organized by folk singer Phil Ochs. “I took guitar lessons from Van Ronk for a year. He taught well as I remember—a lot of a-ha moments learning guitar with him. He was a direct guy committed to whatever it was he was doing. I only met Dylan once. I picked him up at a pizza place in Bloomington, Indiana, because John Mellencamp, whom I was working for, was directing one of Dylan’s videos. Dylan didn’t say much during the car ride.”
Ronnie Wood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during a 1975 Rolling Stones tour. “It was the first tour where Wood played guitar,” Sandler says. “He replaced Mick Taylor. Billy Preston was on keyboards.Besides being a great guitarist, he’s also a great painter. A little bit expressionist mixed with a Picasso-like style.”
Peter Frampton at his Westchester riverfront home in 1975. “He liked some of the studio session images I had done, so he said, ‘Come up to the house and shoot me.’ This image is a complete contradiction of what he is on stage. Yet he loves this photo.”
Roger McGuinn of The Byrds in 1973, shot in Sandler’s 22nd Street studio. “He said to me, ‘You got ten minutes. I’m busy.’ He came with a walkie-talkie or something. I took four images in ten minutes and he left.”
John Mellencamp at a Charlotte, North Carolina, studio in 1988. “This shot shows him exactly as he was—a brooding rock star. I was tour manager for Mellencamp from 1985 to 2000, and we’re very friendly. I photographed his daughter’s wedding in Paris.”
The Who’s Roger Daltrey in 1975 at Madison Square Garden. “He’d played a residency four days in a row. In April or May 1981, while on a Springsteen tour in England, I went with Bruce to Daltrey’s house. It was a striking country house with beautiful grounds befitting an English gentleman.”

“I’m having breakfast here with Bruce Springsteen on The River Tour in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1981. You see genuine off-stage calm minutes before the lights go on, and then he comes alive and turns into The Boss. He’s a driven man, direct about what he wants, and gives everything he has when performing, whether for six or sixty thousand. It’s in his DNA to perform.”

Clarence Clemons and Springsteen in 1980. Sandler was the band’s road manager from 1979 to 1981. “The Big Man and The Boss—they were close. I knew Clarence well. He was a football player at Maryland State College, a very large man. I went to his funeral, which was very sad.”
Eddie Van Halen live on the 2004 Van Halen tour. “This shot was taken with a digital camera and processed on the iPad, so I was able to get more color in the background to create drama.”
Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen on a charter plane during the 2004 tour. “A good, quiet moment—rare for that tour. Sammy is a smart businessman and took care of his money with wise investments. Eddie is an all-time top-five guitar player, a true artist, and a musical genius. As is often the case, along with genius come lots of idiosyncrasies.”

“The first time Lady Antebellum headlined in New York City was in 2010 at the Nokia Theater [now Best Buy Theater] in Times Square.”


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