Celebrating 50 Years of Are You Experienced: The Photography of Karl Ferris

Celebrating The 50-Year Anniversary Of Are You Experienced With The Work Of Photographer Karl Ferris At The Morrison Hotel Gallery!

By Anne Raso
Photos courtesy of The Morrison Hotel Gallery


If you had to pick the most memorable cover EVER in the history of classic rock, what would it be—Sgt. Pepper? Dark Side Of The Moon? Are You Experienced? My vote goes to Are You Experienced, hands down. Not only does the image get embedded in your brain the first time you see it but it landmarks the very day 50 years ago that Hendrix became the unofficial king of psychedelia and amazed rock fans around the world.

Karl Ferris was the innovative English photographer who was commissioned by Jimi Hendrix (via his managed Chas Chandler) to shoot the US cover of Are You Experienced after the guitar maestro was disappointed with the typical group shot used for the UK version. Hendrix met with Ferris—a successful 60s fashion photographer--at his humble apartment (this was before Hendrix moved to Handel House to live with Kathy Etchingham). Many joints were passed back and forth at the meeting and the two got along famously.

Hendrix knew in advance that he wanted Ferris to do the shoot after he saw the photog’s wonderfully creative and uber-psychedelic cover shot for The Hollies’ 1967 album, Evolution. The innovative Ferris not only experimented with color, but he shot through a fisheye lens, which in the past had generally been used only by military photographers.

Now you can see (and even purchase) Ferris’ work at The Morrison Hotel Gallery during its Are You Experienced: The Psychedelic Era shows in both NYC and LA. The NYC show runs from 8/23/17 to 9/6/17 while the LA show runs from 8/24/17 to 8/31/17. You can not only get a close up look at Ferris’ best snaps of Jimi and the boys, but of all sorts of rock luminaries. Classic rock fans will be happy that included in the Morrison Hotel show is the wonderful 1968 psychedelic headshot of Hendrix live that was used for the US version of the double album Electric Ladyland.

Being a maniac when it comes to late 60s classic rock, I just had to ask Ferris what the shoot for Are You Experienced was like. He confirms that he took the Experience on a stroll through the scenic Kew Gardens neighborhood of London and that they posed in front of a bunch of greenery. Ferris did have a hand in telling Jimi, Mitch and Noel what their clothing and hair should look like, and believe it or not, no one was high during the shoot. (You just know that I had to ask since the photo was taken close to the height of the Psychedelic Age, LOL!) Ferris reveals with a chuckle, “No drugs were allowed at my photo sessions until after it was done! I wanted everyone to be clear-eyed and responsive! We arrived late at the Kew Gardens location and only had one hour to do the shoot--incidentally the shot that was used was the first shot on the roll of film!”

Ferris and Hendrix became great friends and he often visited the rock legend at home, backstage and in the studio. The charming photog remarks, “I did many sessions with the Experience. I did many album cover shoots and promo sessions (with them) at my Hampstead studio. After seeing the finished Are You Experienced art, Jimi said, ‘You are the only photographer doing what am doing with my music--going far out beyond the usual limits’!”

As for the record release party for Are You Experienced, well, naturally Ferris went and it was a wild time with several rock star legends attending. When I asked what other rock stars were there, Ferris laughs and states, “It was a private party at Jimi's former flat and everyone was too stoned to remember who was there!”

Just for the record, Ferris also created what is arguably the first-ever liquid light show in 1966 for Pink Floyd but considers his greatest achievement to be the photography for Donovan’s Gift From A Flower To A Garden, the very first pop/rock boxed set.

Ferris presently lives and works in Ibiza. Photography is on the back burner but Ferris does do special photo assignments here and there; he mainly produces films and music these days. His latest project is The Jimi Hendrix Ibiza Remix, a unique mix of Hendrix classics and electrifying dance beats.

For more on the gallery hours and locations, go to www.morrisonhotelgallery.com. (Just for the record, all photos are for sale framed and unframed on the gallery’s site. If you want a 20” X 20” framed limited edition print of the famous Are You Experienced shot, it will set you back a cool four G’s!) Other photographers in the exhibition include Ethan Russell, Joel Brodsky, Michael Joseph, Gered Mankowitz and Amalie R. Rothschild. Ethan Russell’s shot of Keith Richards sitting on a white floor in a purple velvet suit might just might be my Are You Experienced: The Psychedelic Era show favorite after the legendary Are You Experienced cover pic!

Oh, and one more thing in keeping with the Hendrix theme—there is a petition currently being circulated to make 8th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the West Village “Jimi Hendrix Way.” In 1969, Hendrix bought the short-lived Generation Club where he played impromptu shows and taped fellow artists from in front of the stage—and he turned it into his dream studio called Electric Lady by 1970. He often stayed at the cottage behind the studio at 52 West 8th Street as well—it has since been renovated and expanded and now rents for $11K per month. Sadly, Hendrix passed away only a couple of months after Electric Lady’s opening party on August 26, 1970, but not after doing a bit of recording there. It remains in business until this day.

Sign the petition here: