This album offers some personal views of Northern California and experiences on my way to and from, especially in the 1980s. Places and people, not many symbols or pretty patterns.
It will be in two parts. This page is about the early 80s – I was in my early twenties and lived in Sweden – when the camera helped me enhance and deal with experiences in the U.S. during my first trips there.
It’s not my view of the U.S. or its people in general. It is a tribute to some warm and committed and intelligent people who have mattered a lot to me. They will always play a role in my life. And let’s admit it: USA plays some role in all of our lives in Scandinavia and elsewhere.
I looked at prints rather than old slides and negatives. There are many more significant moments – some wonderful and some ugly ones – be it the inspiring feminism lectures by Angela Davis in California, or being robbed on a Manhattan back street. Both in 1984.
You can enlarge the images + click/swipe the lightbox away
Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport “welcomed” me at first U.S. arrival in 1982. Bound for Oakland/SF, I was allowed to leave the airport in Minnesota during a stop-over and watch…. the huge cemetery with memorials of so many men from World War II.
2022 is a time of war in Europe again – and “war” always pop up in unexpected ways in America – but it’s not going to be a war album though the prospect of nuclear war loomed large in the 80s as well.
This 1982 photo is about San Francisco and the 80s anti-war movement. The people in the bus are actually arrested during a protest at Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons research lab not far from the Bay Area and founded by UC Berkeley.
This was a time when fear of nuclear war was at its highest since the early 60s. Such tension sparks action, and I strongly felt the global outlook among these activists incl. my friend, Jim. The Oakland Police released him and many others the next day.
Three years later, a Gorbachev in Moscow became the new General Secretary of the communist party and started to reduce tension for real.
The whole story went into the Swedish student magazine Lundagård with then editor Per Gunnar Holmgren present in Livermore too. The nukes are still being developed despite continued student protests over the decades, but that’s another story.
Other U.S. tensions were exposed in the mid-60s during the Civil Rights Movement where the Berkeley marches and speeches at campus ignited action that spread nationally. Kamala Harris’ parents took her to the rallies in a stroller as they lived nearby on Bancroft Way.
Not least music became the carrier of a new beat counterculture in San Francisco and even internationally in the 1960s.
Downtown San Francisco and hi to Jacob Holdt who toured with his slideshow, American Pictures (and kept editing and expanding it)
I flew to the Bay Area then. At other times I have been on a Greyhound bus across the continent with Tucson, Arizona as my first destination. Greyhound and Trailways drivers crossing the Hudson River announce that we were now heading for “PHILADELPHIA, D.C., AND ALL POINTS WEST”. The saying may go on for days with just another city name as prefix. New Orleans, Houston… California dreaming and San Francisco still thousands of miles and days of driving away.
That’s enough hours on the bus to learn e.g. how to speak as in North Carolina or à la Alabama. As if no longer being the only white person on the bus from Montgomery. I learned the dialect well enough that I no longer understood my own words, but other passengers did… which made all the sense in the world right here where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in 1955. Sometimes the puzzle only comes together later.
Center for Creative Photography in Tucson was my home for weeks during several stays in the early 1980s. It holds the archives of W. Eugene Smith who was the subject of my thesis at Lund University. The weekend trips taught me things about the desert – and I met e.g. Stuart Alexander.
UC Santa Cruz has attracted a large number of curious and open-minded students with political and spiritual ambitions. Photography with Lewis Baltz and feminism with Angela Davis… I spent the whole Spring quarter in a house not far from the beach and with some great housemates from all over the country. The pictures from the house soon became my project for Phyllis Rogers’ Visual Anthropology class.
Evening fog rolling in from the Pacific near sunset at the river mouth – downtown Santa Cruz! Nature dominates here and on campus above town. And in the minds of most people who choose to go here. Such as Sue who I fell in love with.
I met Conrad at a Friends of Photography workshop in Carmel, founded by Ansel Adams on California’s central coast just north of Monterey – and near Point Lobos where we went to experience the scenery of Edward Weston and Minor White who photographed the ocean’s interaction with rocks and trees at Pebble Beach in a myriad of shapes and textures.
Sadly, Ansel himself died the same week, and we went to a memorial ceremony at the gallery during the workshop. But we did have time to make new friends – and I looked up Conrad on my way back and stayed almost a week with him and grandma in North Bronx. Again found myself to be the only white person around for days – besides Conrad of course wearing his white towel.