V I P Passes
A photographer can see past the events he is capturing. In the Sixties, looking through a camera was staring into the keyhole of the future. Photography, though, captures the timeless posture of the human form in the act of commitment. Protest, however, is of the moment. Photography isolates that moment. Often a photograph is a stronger statement than the act recorded. In many instances, the photographs were more forceful than the protests. Photography, in fact, became part of the act. The photographs help create and recreate the protests indefinitely, allowing continual renewal. Events didn't have to occur again to convince us that they can. The protest and the resulting confrontation became eternal.
What distinguished the photographers here was our naiveté about the conspiratorial nature of power, our blind indifference to danger, and that most of us were not trained as photographers. We studied other disciplines. Degrees in English, philosophy and the other humanities are held by most of us. We learned photography on the street and from each other. We were also part of events. A camera is a much more effective weapon than a stone, or a protest sign.
In this country, everyone must have his or her revolution. Every American must relive or recreate the- original. Unfortunately, many people only live media revolutions. Only a small number walk the line of confrontation and help cause change for themselves and others. As photographers, we were active witnesses, guardians of the protesters, and craftsmen of a new culture. We were our own media. We were published widely. Our photographs were the reality lived by most people not present. We were committed observers at close range. In fact on occasion police had to reach over us to get at demonstrators. At, times, also, we were caught in the crossfire or singled out as the opposition and attacked. Our photographs were threatening. They still are.
The innocence of the Beatles, the sophistication of Dylan and the idealism of the Kennedy sons still claim the major share of media attention to the Sixties. But the same music and qualities were present, at times, at many of the protests.
The Sixties were an exciting time of confrontation and new freedoms. In truth, photography allowed us to break the shell of authority and so enter our own maturity. In turn our generation has matured. But, and I've said it before elsewhere, 1984 is the year that didn't happen because the Sixties did.