Shooting Stars

By Stacey Colwell

Bridgewater photographer captured images of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll history Lennon, Jagger, Hendrix, Joplin and Dylan.

With a camera as his ticket, Eric Hayes earned a pass into the lives of legends.

The Bridgewater resident will display some of his 1960s photographs - four of which appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine - during a show at Halifax's ViewPoint Gallery beginning on March 6.

"When I was in photo school in California, I was almost more interested in music than I was photography," said Mr. Hayes, who was 23 years old during the Summer of Love in 1967.

"That's when I dropped out - I'm a photo school drop-out," he laughed. "I just wanted to get out and take pictures. I met a girl at a Christmas party back home in Kelowna [British Columbia] and we bought one-way tickets to Bombay."

They spent six months travelling through India, taking still pictures during a movie shoot, before moving to London, England for most of the next two years.

"I initially had a notion that I could help Ringo [Starr], because I'd heard he was interested in photography. I thought I'd go to London and look up Ringo and see if he'd like me to help him set up a dark room," laughed the 57 year old, who never got a chance to meet Ringo, but did meet some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll history.

"The music industry back in the '60s was way more open than it is now Š after a while in London I got to be known as one of the photographers who went to the events. I almost didn't need passes."

He spent a week at a bed and breakfast with Joe Cocker, got to know The Who and became good friends with legendary folk-rock band Fairport Convention.

"I was their photographer and I did the album cover for Unhalfbricking. I was quite proud of that."

However, that wasn't the experience he remembers best.

"One of the most memorable moments was going to Jimi Hendrix's apartment. A reporter and I went to his apartment to interview him, and woke him up," said Mr. Hayes, pointing to a picture of a tired-looking Hendrix sitting on his couch smoking a cigarette. "He was very nice. He talked to us for quite a while."

The self-confessed photo school drop-out also spent two days in the Rolling Stones' recording studio while they recorded Beggars Banquet.

"That was as easy as going to their office in downtown London and saying, 'hi, I'm Eric Hayes and I'm a photographer and was wondering if I could take some pictures of the Stones?' The guy said, 'as a matter of fact, we're looking for some new pictures and the Stones are in the studio every night now working on their new album, so why don't you come in tomorrow night?'

"I went in at 9 o'clock that night - that's when their work started - and went until six in the morning. At about two in the morning we had a big roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner served. I thought they'd be all stoned out, but they weren't. The only person who was, was Brian Jones. Mick was very business like. They got down to business and worked hard the two nights I was there."

The original photographer at Rolling Stone magazine's London office, he said there was no secret to his success as a photojournalist.

"F-8 and be there is the old photographer's slogan. It's just a matter of having enough balls to go where you want to go and say hi."

In 1969, after tiring of the trendy fashion movement in Britain, he decided to get back to nature.

"I left because I missed Canada, and BC in particular. I went from being a silk scarf-wearing poof to working in a saw mill in northern BC. I needed a change of pace."

By the time he first visited Nova Scotia in 1982, he was a divorced father of two.

"I came to visit friends from BC who'd moved here, and I fell in love with the place: the climate, the people, the woods, the ocean - all that."

Now remarried to local photographer Mary Dixon, he's lived in Bridgewater since 1989, and recently decided to show his work from the '60s.

"These pictures are a treasure that's been waiting for the right moment to blossom as an exhibition," said Mr. Hayes, whose clippings from the past three decades include work for Harrowsmith, Equinox, Maclean's and the Toronto Star. However, the bulk of his 1960s collection was lost years ago.

"When I left England in 1969, most of my negatives stayed with a friend who was going to raise some money for me, and for himself, as an agent marketing my pictures.

"He got sick and ended up in the hospital for a number of months, couldn't afford to pay his rent, and so his landlord came in and chucked out all his stuff, including my negatives."

Forty-two of his remaining pictures will be on display in ViewPoint Gallery at 2050 Gottingen Street in Halifax on Wednesdays through Sundays from noon until 5 p.m, beginning on March 7. He will host an opening reception on March 6 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.


Bridgewater's Eric Hayes prints a picture of Janis Joplin, which he took in 1969. It's one of his 42 archival rock 'n' roll prints that will be on display at Halifax's ViewPoint Gallery, beginning March 6. Photo: Mary Dixon