Bill Owens photographed the Hells Angels at Altamont, then hid for 49 years

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When Bill Owens got his pictures of the violence at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival published in Rolling Stone, he would not let his name appear on the photo credit. Owens had been threatened and he feared retribution from the same Hells Angels he’d photographed swinging pool cues in front of the concert stage on Dec. 6, 1969.

The biker gang had been paid in cases of Olympia beer to provide security for the free concert and by the end of what historian Joel Selvin coined “rock’s darkest day,” one fan had been knifed to death, three had died in accidents and many more were beaten and abused before a shocked crowd of 300,000 — half of them on bad acid trips.

Owens revealed that he’s been hiding from the Hells Angels for nearly 50 years. Now he’s finally got up the nerve to publish a monograph under the fearless title “Bill Owens: Altamont 1969” (Damiani, $40).

The 53 images have never before been concentrated into a book, and they show a unique vantage because Owens was able to climb one of the sound towers and hide up there while snapping the action below.

The images appear in the book without captions, so Owens collaborated with The Chronicle to supply verbal descriptions of 10 prints that he selected.

Some Photos and the rest of article

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Sam Whiting
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datebook.sfchronicle.com




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