Born in Indio, CA and raised in Medford, OR, Herb Greene was encouraged to pursue art by his mother. Finding drawing too difficult, his art teacher recommended photography, so at the age of 17 he enrolled in a course and bought his first camera. He soon graduated and moved to San Francisco to study photography at City College and later transferred to SF State University to major in Anthropology and Communications.
In 1961 he moved into an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where he met and became friendly with a young Jerry Garcia, who would soon hire him for his first Rock & Roll photosession, for his band The Warlocks.
Herb Greene went on to photograph the rock musicians and other members of San Francisco’s cultural milieu during the height of its creative productivity. Greene, a friend of many of San Francisco’s most influential musicians, worked as few photographers have: not as a documenter from the outside, but as a participant within the music scene he was photographing.
Many of his photographs have become signature portraits of these musicians. His revealing portraits of The Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Beck, The Pointer Sisters, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, Rod Stewart and many others helped create astonishing family album for an entire generation.
Herb Greene is one of the best-known chroniclers of the Haight-Ashbury music scene in the 1960s. During this vibrant period in American music history, Greene worked by day as a staff photographer for a San Francisco department store, while photographing characters of the early rock scene on his own time. His work during these years helped define popular images of superstar performers such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin.
The photographic portraits Greene made during these years are characterized by an impressive combination of classical compositional balance and spur-of-the-moment candidness. Greene’s subjects exude iconic, rock idol grandeur while still appearing casual, as though they are just hanging out and playing in front of the camera. It is for this reason that his images, such as the cover of the Jefferson Airplane Album “Surrealistic Pillow,” and the famous “Dead on Haight” shot of the Grateful Dead, have become so emblazoned on our collective cultural memory.
In the 1970s-1980s Greene continued to shoot music and fashion photography and worked with the Grateful Dead again on their albums “In the Dark” (1987) and “Dylan and the Dead” (1989). Greene has published several books including, The Book of the Dead (1990), Sunshine Daydreams (1991), and Dead Days: A Grateful Dead Illustrated History (1996).
In 1990 he began touring the country with two exhibits “Portraits of the Acid Age - San Francisco Rock and Roll scene, 1966-1969” and “The Grateful Dead.” He has had numerous successful exhibitions of his fine art prints around the country.