Born in Berkeley in 1941, I grew up and was educated there, graduating from the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) with a B.A. in Biochemistry. I was the first of three boys born to parents who were intensely involved in radical politics. As a teenage boy, I was captivated by their energy and sense of purpose. At the same time, I had become fascinated by the “magic” of photography, as taught to be by my father in his home darkroom. With hindsight, I can see that my dual journeys as movement activist and movement photographer were destined from the start.
At the age of eighteen I was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, at their 1960 San Francisco hearings. Their stated purpose in coming to San Francisco was to investigate “communist influence” in Bay Area schools and in local progressive organizations. McCarthyism, and its hysterical “Red threat to America” message, was in its waning days by then, but a congressional subpoena, even after McCarthy’s fall from grace could still have a chilling, damaging effect on those called to testify. It certainly had that effect on me, the youngest person ever subpoenaed by HUAC.
In violation of our first amendment rights, I and forty seven other people were compelled to publicly answer to a list of accusations of subversive activity framed as “questions” about our opinions and activities. We learned that we were under the threat of indictment for perjury or “contempt of Congress” if we did not tell the Committee what they wanted to hear. I refused to give testimony about my political opinions and actions, and those of people I knew, citing my First Amendment right to join the organizations of my choice and engage in peaceful protest, and my Fifth Amendment right to refuse to be compelled to give testimony that could be held against me, then or at some time in the future. You can view videos of my testimony here.
For several years afterward, my new employers were quickly “warned” about me, and the FBI succeeded in getting me fired from a succession of well-paying jobs. After that run of what I came to know was more than bad luck, I realized that it would take time, effort and the kindness of others to find sympathetic employers. I learned that more than one such employer was willing to hire me despite my having been “exposed” by the press and the FBI as a “known communist,” and I finally found long-term, secure employment.
Although I finally succeeded in getting and keeping good jobs in the middle to late sixties, the angst and frustration of my previous experience had exacted a toll on my income, my family and my emotional health. I continued to deal with serious episodes of depression for many years afterward, until I sought and received effective professional help.
Why I have I waited so long to make public my story and my pictures? I am still figuring that one out, but as I approach 80, I know that more than ever, there is an important tale of resistance and struggle to be shared, especially with the younger generation. Along with our young people, many of us today are frustrated and disgusted with the current state of our nation’s politics. Like many, I have a disdain for our current government. I feel impelled, more than ever, to tell this part of the San Francisco Bay Area’s prominent history in the forefront of movements for significant local and national social change. The example set by the Bay Area in the sixties reminds us of the present onslaught of white nationalism and the possibilities available to us to join together and challenge the racist and xenophobic policies of the “America First” movement.
To me, these photos are not simply a historical chronicle. In my photography, consciously or not, I have tried to capture images that show some of the emotions and character of the sixties movements, as experienced from the inside. I believe that, by the age of eighteen, when I made the first of these photographs, I had already developed a significant degree of social consciousness and photographic ability. From the start, I was able to follow my strong instinct to document the uniquely lively Bay Area progressive movement in which I was involved.
Above all, I want people to enjoy these photographs as much as I still do. I admit that a part of my motivation to create this website comes from a strong sense of nostalgia for the exciting days of my adventurous youth. I also have a desire to reconnect with my old comrades, now senior citizens, and the curious among their progeny.
Over the years, I have been exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California and the Berkeley Museum of Art (which toured its exhibition around the country), as well as at UCB’s Bancroft Library. My photographs have been purchased for inclusion in at least six published books and used without my permission in one or more other publications. During the ‘60s, my photographs also appeared in union newspapers, San Francisco’s People’s World newspaper and the Berkeley Barb. So use the menu above, have a look, and feel free to use the contact form if you'd like to share something with me about these pictures, or if you'd like to be licensed to use them for your own purposes.