Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ah, the good old days of photojournalism

Periodically, when Blogspot isn’t devouring time like a dog that has just been given a cheeseburger from the table, I go through my old loose-leaf notebook of negatives. I scan some of them and yesterday I ran across a series of shots from a protest in Cambridge, Massachusetts in October of 1969. Not very good shots but they brought back memories! I shot them on a freelance assignment for The Cambridge Phoenix in 1969. They weren’t any better then because none of them made it past the photo editor.

I knew it was October of 1969 because I looked up the Cambridge Phoenix on Wikipedia and that was the month it was started and they were on a shoestring and looking at anything people with cameras brought in.

The photo editor was Peter Simon, brother of Carly Simon. I looked him up too and he seems to have done well for himself -- . I don’t remember him well except that he was clearly a good photographer and, mostly, I was hoping to meet his sister so she could fall in love with me.

I also remember one afternoon when nobody was in the office, a run-down store front on Massachusetts Avenue. Since nobody was looking, Bagman sneaked a look into Peter’s negative files. There were several shots of a commune somewhere and everyone was dancing around naked. That’s when I decided he was a really good photographer.

Ah, the sixties. (Although when I drill down the actual dates, most of the things that characterize the ‘60s actually took place in the early part of the ‘70s. Go figure).

I was a journalism major and I minored in philosophy. I picked these majors for two reasons. (1.) There was less homework than engineering and (2.) I thought it might impress women.

My favorite philosopher at the time was Georg Hegel, although I always had points deducted from my papers because I kept calling him George. I liked his idea that philosophy evolved from a thesis and an antithesis, two conflicting beliefs (sort of like Bagman and Butler). By reconciling the common truths of a thesis and an antithesis, you arrived at a synthesis, a kind of higher truth. Manipulated correctly, I could almost always create a synthesis that included free love and sex. Philosophy was a great major!

BUTLER: You really need to remind everyone that this was in college and you did, eventually, grow up.

BAGMAN: Speak for yourself!

Politically, I was a journalist. This was useful too because I could go where the action was without alienating either liberal or conservative members of the fairer sex. It didn’t really work well in practice.

I loved the signs people carried. “Make love, not war” was my favorite. Of course.

“Question Authority” was another good one. We thought we invented the idea of questioning authority although I think it was being done at least as far back as the Pharisees. Although maybe we were the first to have bumper stickers.

And then there was “Never trust anyone over 30.” Or was it 40? I can’t trust my memory any more. Hey, maybe we were right!

None of this blog has explained these photos that were rejected by Carly Simon’s brother. It was a kind of double protest, staring with a strike by gas company workers and then joined by a group of Harvard professors and students who wanted to keep police from evicting a guy who owned a restaurant that they liked just because he hadn’t paid his rent for months. The nerve of the landlord!

It started peacefully and ended in a scuffle. I tried to get in closer to get a shot that Peter Simon might like and a cop told me to move back. I announced that I was a member of the third estate, working on an assignment for the Cambridge Phoenix! The scuffle then rolled in my direction and I stepped into it to get the perfect shot. But I never got it. At that point, by sheer accident, a cop kicked me in the ankle.

I never saw exactly which one had done it and I shouted, “Ouch! Hey! Be careful! I’m the press!”

But the scuffle was over and I was hurting badly. The perfect opportunity. What could be more irresistible than a Hegelian journalist in need of sympathy and nurturing?

And it wasn’t until now, almost 40 years later, that the thought just came to me. I really don’t think it was an accident. I think the cop kicked me out sheer malice. And frankly, I can’t blame him.


  1. I may well have kicked you too.

    But not when I was young, then I may have kissed you :)

    Well, I am a child of the 60's you know!


  2. I remember images such as yours, as a child. Such a different world.
    If you get a chance, drop by my blog...MudPuppy's post with your question is up today.
    Make it a good day, guys!

  3. I well remember these days and what a shot!! Beautiful and really brought it all back for me.
    Now onto the important business........

    Wait a minute Michelle.......are you trying to move in on my man (men)????
    I will totally have a cat fight with you over him (well, at least Bagman....I'm fond of Butler too but there's just something about Bagman....)
    I feel like you are cheating on me B&B. You've been leading me on you heartbreaker you.
    Do the other ladies know about this?? Patty, I told you he'd break our hearts with his sweet talking ways......SIGH....
    Call me dude........seriously.

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  4. Woa! Woa! Do you mean to suggest that love is finite? That giving in one place is taking away from another place?

  5. I thought that the more you loved the more your capability is to love.... so of like use it or loose it...
    I missed the sixties and the seventies, too busy having sick babies and struggling to pay the bills. must have been fun.

  6. That's what I always thought...just like exercise...(not that I do much of that)...(exercise).

  7. Like wow man!

    Is this what happens when you post a few pics from back in the day? That is so far out man!

    There must be some kind of way out of here
    Said the joker to the thief
    There's too much confusion
    I can't get no relief

    OK...that's not a protest song...but it IS sooooo cool and IS Hendrix!


  8. I knew if I hung around here long enough there'd be echoes of past glories, and some free love...

    Make love not war, man/ladies - There'll be enough of B&B to go around...

  9. Ah the memories, the music, the mischief. And sometimes the memories play mischief. You wanted Carly Simon to fall in love with you; I fantasied that if only I had been her friend, I might have saved Janis. Never got kicked in a demonstration, but I was only in on those peace and love, make love not war demonstrations, not disaffected worker and rent squatter uprisings.

  10. Wow, was I born WAY too late! I've always known that I was a hippie, even having been born during the Summer of Love, and near San Francisco too! Of course my parents were completely straight laced, and I'm the Earth Mother hippie kid who is now a mom and freaking out the parents at school!

  11. I know what it was. It was seeing my smiling cop (well, I think he wanted to smile but he was afraid he would look too happy) that brought back your memory of being abused by that mean old cop.

    I think you made a mistake when you did not get a photo of the cop who kicked you. Always get photos of cops who kick you and stop you for speeding.

    BTW: I did not get tickets for speeding and not wearing my seat belt. A twofer, and just one little warning.

    Another BTW: I am playing catch up. The paper has been running me around in circles, and I have to hit the streets at 7:30 this morning. Dorthea does not like all this boring work.