Joel Bernstein is an acclaimed photographer, musician, record producer, and archivist, whose work chronicles the lives of some of the most important singer-songwriters, performers, and musicians of a generation. His most popular subjects include Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty, among others. What sets Bernstein apart from other photographers is that he not only shot their pictures, but he was also their friend and compatriot, performing on numerous recordings and onstage, in addition to co-producing several of their albums.
A self-taught photographer, Bernstein became close with many of his subjects very early in life. At the young age of 16, Joni Mitchell invited him to be her photographer, and he has since become the most comprehensive photographer of her life and work. He shot imagery for several of her album covers, including Hejira, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover. He is also the acknowledged expert on her guitar compositions and tunings.
After a short time as part of Joni’s inner circle, he was soon asked to create the album cover imagery for Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, which is often cited in Best Album Covers Of All-Time lists. He has remained a close friend and collaborator with Neil as well, serving as his archivist since the 1990s and co-producing several solo releases including his historic multi-disc Archives Volume I, Sugar Mountain, Live at Canterbury House 1968, and Archives Volume II.
He developed a lasting collaborative friendship with Crosby, Stills, & Nash as well, and traveled with them as tour photographer on the famed CSNY 1974 reunion tour. He has also co-produced multi-disc CD and DVD box sets individually for David Crosby (2006), Stephen Stills (2013), and Graham Nash (2009), with whom he also co-produced the CSNY 1974 Live box-set released in 2014. Nash, a renowned photographer and printer himself, has also collaborated with Bernstein on editing his photographs of musicians for future book projects.
Bernstein's work is well known within the world of music, and is included in the permanent collection of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. His work was a key inspiration for the look of Cameron Crowe's well-received rock film Almost Famous, in which many scenes were precise re-creations of Bernstein's photographs. His many album covers are commonly listed among the most influential in rock's visual history. He has been published in a wide spectrum of books on music, musicians, and the music business, as well as in Time, The New York Times and Rolling Stone. He was profiled in MOJO, the esteemed British music publication, which extensively featured his photos of Neil Young.
Bernstein has continued working with these artists as archivist, editor, and producer of their CD boxed sets and DVD retrospectives, researching and editing both music and artwork. His work as archivist and co-producer of the Buffalo Springfield box set, was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as "setting new standards of excellence for archival CD releases." Later, he was co-producer of Woman of Heart and Mind, an Emmy Award-winning documentary on the life of Joni Mitchell for PBS' American Masters series that was met with critical and audience acclaim and became a worldwide DVD release.
Bernstein maintains that his unique perspective on these artists is the result of spending so much time with them that he was there to observe and capture those unique “perfect moments of intimacy” when they revealed themselves, not by some preconceived set-up. He is currently based in Oakland, California.