The sixties in Berkeley are often pigeonholed as a period of political, chemical, and sexual excess. Elio De Pisa, however, did not exploit the sordid and sensational. He found the texture of everyday life rich and telling enough, capturing rapturous drummers and dancers, evangelists and their detractors, nudes en promenade—situations infused with humor and drama.
In this everyday sixties scene we glimpse some trends that continue—and some that could stand resumption. Clearly, beyond the mere concept of civil rights, there was de facto integration of races, professions, ages, and even species. The handicapped were in the mix, starting to live independently. “Cooperation was the operative word,” recalls an artist. People pooled money to buy wholesale, lived communally, bartered, hitchhiked.
The book was first conceived in the 1970's, when De Pisa mounted his favorite black and white gelatin silver prints as composites on art boards. A decade later, he selected what he called his “photo diary of the Berkeley sixties scene." It was not until after his death in 2002, however, that this documentary was edited and drafted in book format. Photographer Nick Cedar, an old friend, copied the boards to slides and digital files. Old-timers gathered at the house of Elio's wife, Diane, to share reminiscences and critique the collection. Elio's composites were deconstructed and reorganized, color images scanned and added. Architect Lucien Delia helped lay out Elio's photos with Diane's text in four chapters: “Telegraph Avenue,” “UC Campus,” “Caffe` Med,” and “All the Scene's a Stage”—referring to the fun-loving, role-playing spirit of the times.
The artistic merit of the prints as well as their unique historical viewpoint distinguishes this collection from other treatments of the sixties. De Pisa's images appeal especially now, as America yearns for a future no longer fueled by aggression and greed. Hints of such a vision emerge wordlessly from the faces and places in this pictorial journal.
The book is available for $19.95 plus S&H. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info and orders.
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