The photographs in this show were all taken between the late 1960s and early 1970s, mostly while I was working in New York, first at LIFE magazine, then as a freelance writer and photographer. It was a period when the term “hippie” had become common.
The word was coined in 1965 by Michael Fallon, a San Francisco journalist writing about a local coffeehouse frequented by what had been called beatnicks. This was the beginning of a time of broad political and social unrest, defined by New Left politics, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, anti-war protests, communes, outdoor rock concerts, an interest in Eastern philosophies, sexual liberation, long hair, tie-dyed clothing, bell-bottom jeans, drug use, and various other manifestations of discontent with the establishment.
I found plenty of hippies to photograph in my own backyard—on the streets of New York, in Central Park, at music venues, and in other public places. I was also fortunate to attend some of the big events that marked the period, including Woodstock, in August, 1969. I camped out in the backstage area, wandered about with my cameras, and, despite being occasionally under the influence of illegal substances along with everyone else, captured some of the pictures on these walls.
Another event was the 1970 Alternative Media Conference (AMC), in northern Vermont. This was a gathering of so-called underground newspaper writers and editors, political activists, comic book artists, freelance journalists of a leftist bent, and others. Their purpose was ostensibly to discuss politics, feminism, the arts, and other topics. Though there were actual discussion periods, the event was marked more by music, marijuana, nudity, and sex.
I also attended two big demonstrations in Washington, DC– the 600,000-strong anti-Vietnam protest march in November, 1969 and, in 1970, a somewhat smaller turnout in response to the Kent State killings and the American incursion into Cambodia—both attended by hippie throngs.
The subject of hippies has lately sparked interest among people who weren’t there at the time, as well as those who were but look back today with a touch of nostalgia. Reviewing my pictures from the last 40-plus years I am struck by the realization that many of these people are now in their 60s and 70s, or older, most of them undoubtedly solid members of the society they once railed against way back when. It is a bittersweet reminder that this fascinating and often wacky era has been long gone. I’m glad I was there to be a witness.