You may not know Ed Caraeff’s name, but if you’re a fan of rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’ve admired at least a few of the hundreds of album covers and live shots he’s taken in a long and storied photographic career.
He took his most famous shot when he was just 17, in June of 1967. Then still a high school junior at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, he had heard about a “rock and roll festival” up the coast in Monterey and headed there with some friends and a camera borrowed from his family’s optometrist. As he put it later: “I wasn’t a music lover that was there to enjoy the music and take a few snapshots. I was there to photograph it—and I did.”
The shot seen ’round the world was of Jimi Hendrix at the close of his first American appearance. It’s a startling and otherworldly image: Hendrix kneels before a Fender Stratocaster laid on the stage, his mouth open, eyes closed in a timeless posture of both dominance and ecstasy.
Oh, and the guitar is on fire.
Caraeff’s photograph became the only image to make the cover of Rolling Stone twice. The song Hendrix was performing…erm, burning? “Wild Thing.” But we’ll get to that.