Thousands of people flocked to the corner of Haight and Ashbury during the Summer of Love, but few saw the unfolding phenomenon as clearly as did Gene Anthony..
He witnessed the extraordinary pilgrimage of young people who trooped to San Francisco in search of answers, approval and love with more than just his camera; he took mental snapshots, too, that put his photographs in cultural context years later.
Anthony insists, “For me, it all began one day in the fall of 1965. From my front windows…” in his apartment on Divisadero Street one block up the hill from Haight, “… not a day went by without a parade of strange apparitions…” Anthony became a part of that parade, capturing compelling vignettes through his telling lens, moving along with the parade and melting into the revue even as he recorded it
He knew the business of the Drugstore Café and witnessed the Digger’s largesse, read the community bulletin board at the Psychedelic Shop and knew Bill Graham, Chet Helms and Ken Kesey. Anthony shot the performers of the period and the people they played for, giving each subject, candid or posed, the respect he deserved. Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin; the Hell’s Angels and street people; the nameless, shabby or resplendent at rest, dancing or high: all were wisps of smoke, caught for a moment and for all time in the middle of being.
Anthony’s talent, subjects and acclaim extend far beyond the psychedelic period, but his ability to capture a mood on a face or the essence of an era from a simple street sign was recognized and refined during that time. Raised in the Bay Area, he studied photography at the California School of Fine Arts under both Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams. Critics agree that Anthony’s photographs reflect the perfect balance of artistry, technique and opportunism born of excellent training and thoughtful personal growth, a combination beautifully revealed in an Anthony shot of retreating bare feet. A San Francisco ’60s couple, bare feet blackened but in step and a keen, accompanying observation: “Bare feet on Haight Street came in two classes: clean bare feet… [on] an afternoon’s adventure… and the dirty feet that had really been down on their luck.”
In his 35 plus-year career, Anthony’s photographs have appeared on the cover of Newsweek and in the pages of Life Magazine, Playboy, Saturday Evening Post, Paris Match and other publications. The artist’s personal interest in sailing became a book, The Eternal Sea, and his video and film interests led to the creation of his multi-image program, The Summer of Love. The Summer of Love is also the name of his1980 book in which the incredible photographs are accompanied by his mental snapshots converted to witty, telling text that sets the scenes. His latest book, The Magic of the Sixties, is planned for publication in late 2004.