UNSEEN SIXTIES: UNPUBLISHED IMAGES FROM “SIXTY-EIGHT” IN THE U.S.A.
ExpoWall Gallery, via Curtatone 4, Milano
Openig: November 8, 2017, 6 PM
I began collecting old 35 mm film negatives seriously when I was writing Tutti i colori di Obama. L’altra storia delle elezioni americane (Franco Angeli 2012).
Tutti i colori di Obama‘s main academic goal was to rediscover those political figures who, running for the U.S. Presidency, anticipated the appearance of Barack Obama in the national political arena: comedian and activist Dick Gregory, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and reverend Jesse Jackson.
Looking for more data and details to complete my volume, I began to rely on iconographic sources, in particular pictures from national and local newspapers and magazines. These shots revealed new perspectives on the political lives of the people I was writing about. A friend’s advice then led me to explore the possibility of buying old negatives on-line: in this way, my historical report was further enriched with new stories and new characters. My background as a historian and my photographer’s eye helped me in the choice of negatives (they were often badly catalogued by the sellers: no subject; uncertain dates…).
Since then, I have specifically bought negatives from the Sixties era, in particular frames dedicated to the main events and characters of Sixty-Eight. I understand “Sixty-Eight” not in a strictly chronological sense, but in its broadest historical perspective, as that period, from 1964 to 1970 circa, during which people all around the world attempted to “revolutionize” society.
My collection – more than a hundred frames – comes mostly from newspaper archives of the Midwest, Chicago in particular. During the Sixties the Windy City was the epicenter of the national political scene and its Mayor, boss Richard Daley, was the most influential politician in the Democratic Party.
In August 1968, Chicago hosted the Democratic Convention – Hubert Humphrey was elected to run versus Republican Richard Nixon. During the Convention, people poured into the streets and in the parks of Chicago to protest against major political choices of the Democratic Party: a series of peaceful rallies, sit-ins, free concerts and free-performing events organized by New-Left, Anti-War and countercultural groups was strongly repressed by local police and the National Guard. Radical activists like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, New-Left leader Tom Hayden, pacifist David Dellinger, poet Allen Ginsberg, co-founder of the Black Panther Party Bobby Seale, Dick Gregory, folk singer Phil Ochs and the MC5 rock band were some of the leaders of the protest during those days, a tragic moment for U.S. Democracy.
These unseen shots – frames which were not selected for publication by newspaper editors – can help us enrich the photo album of the United States’ “Sixty-Eight” with unseen and unpublished details.
Along with well-known faces – U.S Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; West Coast psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane; counterculture leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin; African-American Boston Celtics basketball star Bill Russell; heavyweight champion Joe Frazier; young reverend Jesse Jackson – there are unknown individuals who kept the “wind of change” blowing.
For the 50th anniversary celebration of “Sixty-Eight”, ExpoWall Gallery presents a rich selection of my 35mm private collection. Pamela Campaner, Alberto Meomartini and Denis Curti’s help was very precious in the choice of the frames. Mario Govino‘s print art was equally important for the project.
Unseen Sixties is the result both of missed meetings – the photo reporter shots not selected by American newspaper and magazine editors in the 1960s – and successful meetings, those animating today my city, Milan, and the documentary photography world the city inevitably refers to, to celebrate “the year that rocked the world”, as author Mark Kurlansky wrote in 2004.
Welcome then, to this never seen cutout of history. The Unseen Sixties are waiting for you to discover them.