Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Herb Greene

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Name  Herb Greene

Role  Photographer
Herb Greene Herb Greene39s Crazy 1960s Prairie Chicken House Was a
Books  Painting the Mental Continuum, Mind & image, Dead Days

Herb greene discusses his photography

Herb “Herbie” Greene (born April 3, 1942) is an American photographer best known for his portraits of The Grateful Dead, the iconic psychedelic rock band led by Jerry Garcia. Over 50 years, Greene’s photographs traced the band’s evolution from its roots in San Francisco’s psychedelic underground to global stardom.


Herb Greene Herb Greene Jefferson Airplane San Francisco CA 1967

His portraits of other rock and roll luminaries – including Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, The Pointer Sisters, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, and more – have been regularly featured in Rolling Stone magazine and several books documenting the music of the 1960s counterculture.

Herb Greene Lumiere Blog Archive Herb Greene

Known as “Herbie” by his friends, Greene won high praise for his ability to capture intimate portraits of the most revered figures in rock. That access was largely due to his relationships with the bands he photographed. Although he refers to himself as “just the guy with the long hair and the camera,” Greene lived in San Francisco during the 1960s rock revolution and was friends with renowned musicians, promoters, and artists.

Herb Greene Grateful Deadetc Presented by Walnut Street Gallery

In a 2004 Rolling Stone interview, Grace Slick, former front woman for the Jefferson Airplane, remembered Greene’s famous dining room photo sessions: “Everybody used to go over there in front of Herbie’s wall.”

Herb Greene wwwherbgreenefotocomimagesherbportraitnew22

Today, Greene lives outside of Boston with his wife. He sells his iconic photographs through his website and at art shows across the country, and many of his images are on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio


Rare led zeppelin photos inside herb greene s led zeppelin first us tour portraits collection

Early life and influences

Herb Greene JA08png

Born April 3, 1942, in Indio, California, Herb Greene grew up on his father’s pear orchard in Medford, Oregon. His father traveled the West Coast selling fruit, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.

Greene’s mother could draw well, and she influenced him to pursue the arts. When the family moved to Yuba City, California, Greene took a drawing class at Yuba City High School. He struggled, so when a teacher suggested photography instead, Green enrolled in a class and bought his first camera, a 1959 Icon Contaflex.

As the Vietnam War escalated and high school graduation neared, Greene was terrified of being drafted. He developed a peptic ulcer, disqualifying him from the draft and leading him to pursue his passion for photography.

He graduated from high school in 1960, and in 1961, he left Yuba City and enrolled at City College in San Francisco.

1960s San Francisco

By 1969, San Francisco was a countercultural beacon for a generation of disaffected youth. But before the hippie movement had a name, beatnik artists, writers, and musicians were already calling the city home. They experimented with new styles and sounds, fueled by psychedelic drugs and an increasingly anti-war sentiment. For 19-year-old Herb Greene, the city would inspire his most prolific and creative decade.

In 1961, Greene took photography classes at City College of San Francisco and later enrolled at San Francisco State University, where he majored in anthropology and communications. After moving into an apartment near the famed Haight-Ashbury district, he met Jerry Garcia at a bluegrass café called the Fox and Hound. The two became friends and Greene booked his first gig, a portrait session with Garcia’s band, The Warlocks. (The band would eventually change its name to The Grateful Dead).

Greene soon immersed himself in the psychedelic rock scene. By day, he took classes and worked as an amateur photographer. At night, he partied with the city’s musical elite.

As Greene’s reputation grew, some of the decade’s most iconic performers came to him for portraits and album covers. He photographed Big Brother and the Holding Company and its lead singer, Janis Joplin. He shot the cover for the Jefferson Airplane’s debut album, Surrealistic Pillow, and captured rare portrait sessions with Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Procol Harem, and others.

His illustrious portfolio eventually landed him a job as a fashion photographer with Joseph Magnin and Co, a prominent San Francisco department store. But by the end of the decade, San Francisco’s tight-knit community was overrun by disillusioned seekers and a relentless media frenzy. Hard drugs replaced the experimental vibe that nurtured the hippie movement, and the city began to change.

Greene began to split his time between San Francisco and a new studio in Los Angeles. As the 1960s came to a close, his work with The Grateful Dead and other iconic rockers continued.


Greene worked as a fashion and music photographer throughout the 1970s. He photographed Carlos Santana, The Pointer Sisters, Sly Stone, Dr. Hook, and Chicago. In 1974, he earned a Grammy Award nomination for Art Direction on That’s A Plenty, The Pointer Sisters’ studio album.

Greene’s work with The Grateful Dead took off again in the 1980s. He shot several sessions with Jerry Garcia and the band, including cover art for the hit album In the Dark (1987) and Dylan & the Dead (1989), the band’s compilation with renowned folk singer Bob Dylan.

By the 1990s, Greene’s portfolio had cemented his reputation as the unofficial photographer of The Grateful Dead. His portraits of the band and their 1960s contemporaries were featured in several magazines, including Rolling Stone, Relix, Newsweek, and others.

He also published several books of his work, including The Book of the Dead: Celebrating 25 Years With The Grateful Dead (1990), Sunshine Daydreams (1991), and Dead Days: A Grateful Dead Illustrated History (1996).

After Jerry Garcia’s death in August 1995, Greene went on to photograph The Grateful Dead’s surviving members and their bands, including The Dead, Bob Weir and RatDog, and Further (featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh).

In 1999, the cameraman moved to Maynard, Massachusetts in the suburbs of Boston. Although he no longer photographs musicians, Greene exhibits and sells his work at museums and galleries across the country and on his website.

Greene and The Grateful Dead

Greene first met Jerry Garcia in 1963 at The Fox and Hound, a bluegrass café on North Beach in San Francisco. Both were just 21 years old, and Garcia had not yet formed The Warlocks, the band that would eventually become The Grateful Dead. He was playing as part of the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, a folk trio.

After one of the Garcia’s sets, Greene introduced himself. It was the start of a lifelong friendship. The pair remained friends until Garcia’s death in August 1995.

While many photographers have captured The Grateful Dead on film, Greene is widely regarded as the group’s unofficial photographer. Over 50 years, he shot just 10 sit-down sessions with the band, but his images’ intimacy offer a rare glimpse into the band’s evolution from a fledgling group to international stars.

Photography Style and Equipment

Despite ample opportunities, Greene did not photograph musicians on stage. Instead, he shot portraits of his subjects in his studios, backstage, and in his home. His pieces include both one-on-one and group shots, and he is renowned for his ability to capture intimate expressions from revered musical figures.

Green’s portraits were shot in both color and black-and-white, and the bulk of his work was captured on Kodak Tri-X 120-roll film, using D76 developer. His go-to cameras were a Hasselblad and Mamiya RB67.

Exhibits and Accolades

In addition to these venues, Herb Greene’s works have appeared on album covers and in numerous other galleries and publications.

Recent Museum Exhibits

  • 2016 Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution (multi-artist), Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA
  • 2015 Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution (multi-artist), Skirball Museum, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2015 Dead 50 Years, Griffin Museum of Photography at Digital Silver Imaging, Belmont, MA
  • 2014 American Cool (multi-artist), National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 2014 Forest Lawn Museum, Los Angeles, CA
  • 2011 Brief Encounters With the Dead, Stevens Gallery, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
  • 2011 Group Show, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
  • 2009 Seeing Songs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • 2009 Dead Symphony, Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA
  • Gallery Exhibits

  • 2016 Art in the Embassies, US Embassy, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2015 Dead 50 Years, Hilton Asmus Contemporary, Chicago, IL
  • 2013 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, The Field Gallery, Martha’s Vineyard, MA
  • 2011 Summer of Love: The Last Gasp, Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2011 40th Anniversary Exhibition (multi-artist), Panopticon Gallery, Boston, MA
  • 2005 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA
  • 1998 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Govinda Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • 1988 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Walnut Street Gallery, Fort Collins, CO
  • 1988 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Camera Obscura, Denver, CO
  • 1987 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA
  • 1987 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans, LA
  • 1987 The Acid Age of San Francisco Rock: 1966-1969, Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1981 Herb Greene, Fay Gold, Atlanta, GA
  • Permanent Collections

  • McHenry Library, University of California (complete works), Santa Cruz, CA
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Accolades/Honors

  • 2015 The Grateful Dead 50th Reunion Montage, “Fare Thee Well Tour,” Chicago, IL
  • 2004 “50 Greatest Portraits,” Grace Slick Hieroglyph, Rolling Stone magazine #958
  • 1974 Grammy Nominee: Art Direction, That’s a Plenty, the Pointer Sisters, 1974
  • Media

  • 2016 GQ magazine, “Sly Stone: The Radical Natural,” April 2016.
  • 1970- Rolling Stone, Life, Newsweek, and Relix magazines, multiple covers and feature art
  • Books

    Greene, Herb. The Book of the Dead: Celebrating 25 Years With The Grateful Dead, Delta Publishing, 1990.
    Greene, Herb. Sunshine Daydreams, Chronicle Books, 1991.
    Greene, Herb. Dead Days: A Grateful Dead Illustrated History, Acid Test Publishing, 1996.


    Herb Greene Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    52 Tuesdays
    Paul Alcock
    David Molk