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Memories and Notes

Summer of 1968 the world was turning upside down and taking young minds with it. I wasn't well informed, but even for me things were pretty frightening.

This feeling was occurring to a lot of young people. Many turned to the cheap, weekly underground press to feel “unalone”, as novelist David Wallace Foster has described the feeling great literature gave him.

No one confused the underground Great Speckled Bird with great literature. It did have a wide readership in a region where change was the most feared thing of all. There was hate and often violence against individuals who wanted / who needed / who had to be different.

Imagine living in an isolated community, far from town, where everyone dressed and thought alike … except you. The Bird was a life-preserver. Through its words and photos it said “you are not alone.” Three of us (Tom Coffin, Bill Fibben, and I) shot the photos that appeared in the paper, giving readers some comfort.

There was never any pay for our work, as I remember. My first year I survived by selling The Bird on a Peachtee street corner three nights a week and making $25 that lasted until the next issue came out. Buying outdated film and materials when I could.

Shooting ended in '73 with ten thousand images, these were stored away and forgotten until 1993. When web began I posted them online and got a good response; a quarter million hits a month in the 90s!

After '73 my interests shifted to other subjects. I co-directed a survey of regional photography called The Southern Ethic, a traveling exhibit and book. In '77 a NEA fellowship allowed for European travel and a move to NY.

Once in NY my interests got side-tracked shooting titles for TV. Moving to San Francisco in the 80s I hooked up with an incredible group of animators and film people, creating amazingly animation and effects for features, commercials and the stage. We were a big dysfunctional family but those were grand years.

I'm retired now, living across the bay in Berkeley. Recently someone from New Jersey wrote to say “I didn't know any of the people in the pictures, but I knew everyone in the pictures. Thanks for the little trip back to a better time.” That's why these photos are here.

Carter in Remillard Park, Berkeley 2010