Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 2 May 02 13:19
Peter Simon is a nationally acclaimed photographer. In his latest work, "I and Eye: Pictures of My Generation," Peter offers a wide-ranging pictorial meditation on his own life, as mirrored in photos of love-ins and sit-ins, communes and nude beaches, "New Age" and reggae culture, The Grateful Dead and the New York Mets. Peter has lived on Martha's Vineyard since 1973. He's a contributing photographer for the Vineyard Gazette and the Martha's Vineyard Times. "I and Eye" is his ninth book. They include two books on Martha's Vineyard ("On the Vineyard" and "On the Vineyard II"); one on his sister, "Carly Simon Complete"; an exploration of "Reggae Bloodlines"; and a retrospective on the Mets ("The New York Mets: 25 Years of Baseball Magic"). His photos have been shown in numerous galleries on the East Coast. He's also been published in many newspapers and magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Atlantic Monthly and Rolling Stone. Leading the discussion with Peter is Gary Lambert, who says "I was immediately drawn to Peter's book for a lot of reasons. At times I got the eerie feeling that I was reading my own life story rather than someone else's. Not all the details of our stories are alike, of course -- for one thing, I grew up without famous singing sisters. But we certainly seem to have traveled a lot of the same roads, and shared a lot of the same consuming passions -- for music, baseball and radical politics, to name a few. We both found ourselves rather intimately entangled with the world of the Grateful Dead (an entanglement that continues to this day for me); we both found ourselves in the thick of the political and social upheaval of the 60s (I just might be somewhere in that remarkable photo of the enormous throng in front of the Washington Monument on pages 24 and 25!); and we both seem, thankfully, to have come through it all mostly intact. I look forward to our conversation!" Please join me in welcoming Peter and Gary to inkwell.vue!
Gary Lambert (almanac) Fri 3 May 02 01:23
Thanks, Linda! And hello, Peter! Now, before we start, there's one thing I think I should tell you... I am a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees. Can we still get along? I fervently hope so! (For what it's worth, I love those Metsies, too!) And now that we've gotten that out of the way... Allow me to congratulate you on your wonderful book... well, actually, "I and Eye" is, in a way, several wonderful books at once -- a gorgeous collection of your photgraphic work, covering an extraordinary range of subjects, but also an affecting personal memoir of growing up in a remarkable family, falling in love with baseball, rock 'n' roll and reggae, getting embroiled in the tumult of 60s radical politics, and then joining in back-to-the-garden communal movement that was, in part, a reaction to that tumult. And in its final chapters, the book brings us up to date, with reflections on life as a husband and father in your longtime home, Martha's Vineyard, and your first-hand observations of the cross-generational chaos of Woodstock '99. Photojournalism, nature photography, stories from the rock 'n' roll trenches, tales of the Movement -- it's a hugely ambitious project, and one that could have easily wound up a hopeless hodgepodge in lesser hands. But it all coheres into a remarkably satisfying whole. I think a good place to start the questioning is: how long did this big, beautiful baby gestate in your head, and how difficult was the birthing process?
Peter Simon (paytesimon) Fri 3 May 02 07:45
Hey there Gary - you really seem to "get" my book, which I truly appreciate!!! As far as the "gestation," I guess I subconsciously always felt compelled to record the passage of (my) time through camera and pen. Then in the late 60's, the times, they got amazin'.Since my Dad founded S & S, I had inherited the book gene, so it seemed natural to want to publish various books along the way. After collecting this body of work, most of it amassed on various photo assignments, it seemed about time (at the age of 53) to finally put it all together into one big retrospective. Another incentive was the fact that I often recieved letters, phone calls and emails about whether any of my former books were still available. Alas, only "Playing in the Band" (with Danid Gans) and "Reggae Bloodlines" (with Stephen Davis)are still in print, thus I wanted "I and Eye" fill in some of those missing blanks. I got a deal with Bulfinch Press in the fall of 1998 based on a lengthy proposal (sample chapter and over 300 photos). Then I was off and running. It took two years to complete the project, which I finally handed in around June, 2000, and it came out last August. I must say, it was a real pleasure working with my editor (Janet Bush) and designer (Susan Marsh) who kept me focused and on task....It was a collaborative effort, with lots of back and forths (but no fights!!!). Fortunately, my life seemed to have broken itself down into a cohesive timeline and categorical, thematic compartments, so the organizational process wasn't very hard. I always kept in mind that I wanted to tell MY story, but make it universal as well, so that the book wouldn't overly self-indulgent or narcissistic. The only thing I specifically DID for the book was to attend Woodstock '99, because I felt the book needed some sort of "closure" and to tie in the relationship with my son, which I never could achieve with my own father. The process was overwhelmingly theraputic. The only problem is, I have no idea what to do next. My agent, Sarah Lazin, says it has become impossible to get publishers to sign expensive photo books now - the economy and 9/11 aftershock has killed the market (for now). She says I'm lucky the book was sold, created and manifested when it was.....I'm so glad you enjoy the book! - Peter -
David Gans (tnf) Fri 3 May 02 07:56
> Then in the late 60's, the times, they got amazin'. That's so very true. I also want to welcome Gary and Peter to the inkwell. I'm a California native, a couple of years younger than both of you, and I was more of a spectator than a participant in uch of the amazin' stuff you two were both ebroiled in so deeply. Reading your brave, text, Peter, I really got a feeling for how amazing those times were.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 3 May 02 07:58
Also, as Peter mentions, we becae friends by collaborating on Playing in the Band: An Orla nd Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead, which is indeed still in print! As a lapsed photographer (in the '70s and '80s, I earned my living as a magazine journlist, contributing pictures as well as text), I have to say that my photos NEVER looked as good as when Peter Simon printed them. I treature the prints yu made for me while we were working on "Playing in the Band," Peter.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 3 May 02 08:34
I second David's words of welcome! I've also done photos for some of my articles, most recently for my Austin Chronicle pieces a couple years ago. I haven't had a darkroom in years, so I outsourced printing and felt weird about it, like I was only doing part of the job. I've run into other photographers, though, including some doing higher-end art photography, who seemed to have others doing their printing. Have you always made your own prints? What's your thinking about photographers who don't do darkrooms?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 3 May 02 08:45
What Jon said about printing. I gave it up, at least in part, because I felt that I would have to do a lot more of it to be as good as I needed to be.
Peter Simon (paytesimon) Sat 4 May 02 04:03
Hi there David and John....about printing - the whole landscape of darkroom work is undergoing a sea change right now. I'm thankful to have become an expert B&W printer since the mid-sixties. Many an otherwise lonely night was spent toiling away under the amber light. I then started doing my own color prints from slides in the mid 90's, using a cibachrome system processor. I actually found it easier, once I got the hang of it, to make color prints! But over the last two or three years, the quality you can get from scanning images to a computer, tweeking them around in adober photo shop, and then printing them out on photo paper using an epson printer has been extraordinary. I use my darkroom a lot less now. I'm still learning the ropes of digital printing, but it sure is FUN. Many of my photos are now archived on CDrom, and can be seen (and ordered) on my website - petersimon.com. When I get print orders (be it celebrities, lifestyles or landscapes, I can just push PRINT on my computer, and 4 minutes later out will pop a high quality image from my printer. I have tried using a digital camera (canon EOS d30)but feel the quality is still somewhat lacking.My best results so far are professional scans from color slides. I use the medium format Pentax camera (645) and get awesome results.... As far as the age old question of whether a photographer MUST be able to develop and print his own stuff - my opinion is that knowledge is power, and the more well-rounded one can be, the better. It's sort of like a singer/songwriter going into the studio and producing their own CD, without having hire someone else to engineer, etc. But I recall that photographers like Annie Liebovitz or Herb Ritz rarely print their own stuff. Thus, I feel doing your own prints isn't a "necessity" to being considered a top professional photographer, but it is a helpful tool. In the next year or two, I hope to improve my photoshop work and have some more of my historic images scanned and imputed. And by the way David (Gans), I appreciate your comments about printing your negatives for our "Playing in the Band" book. You had some nice stuff to work with!!!
Berliner (captward) Sat 4 May 02 07:52
Astonishing website over there at (www.petersimon.com), folks. Best-organized photographer's site I've ever seen.
Chris Florkowski (chrys) Sat 4 May 02 13:17
>As far as the age old question of whether a photographer MUST be able >to develop and print his own stuff This reminds me of many arguments about photography, things like archival quality, matting issues, RC vs. fiber paper, etc. Yet I never hear painters challanged for their materials (watercolor is notoriously fugitive.) Do you think photographers are held to unreasonable standards?
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sat 4 May 02 14:57
Peter Simon (paytesimon) Sun 5 May 02 09:55
I think since photography is a chemical process rather than merely paints and a canvas, we are held to a stricter standard. Remember how hotly the question of "is phoptography an art?" was debated? Well, of course it can be/is, but I think there is a prejudice of sorts regarding the fact that film and chemikcals are used. Personally, I much prefer photography over paintings, but then again, I'm sure I'm prejudiced on my side. There is nothing like a frozen chunk of time captured on film. Artrists renditions of pre-civil war history doesn't engage me as actual events captured by a camera - it all seems so much more real.....I hope that answers the question. Keep 'em coming!!!!
man with no pseudonym (cchoffme) Sun 5 May 02 12:47
Great book Peter. Reading it made me wish I had grown up in the 60's. Do you perfer color or B&W? What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
Chris Florkowski (chrys) Sun 5 May 02 13:11
Re subject matter: From the title I'd expected this book to be chock full of self-portraits, but it seems you intended to achieve a self-portrait indirectly.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 5 May 02 15:45
Peter, I loved your stories of life on the commune. I appreciated your candor in describing yourself - throughout the book, actually -- and I would like to know more about those times and those people. Are you still in contact with your fellow communards?
(gobeyond) Mon 6 May 02 12:02
"There is nothing like a frozen chunk of time captured on film." Especially when the chunk in question is one you've lived through, too! Memories that have been dulled by 'senior moments' are coming back into focus, and I'm grinning as they do, so thanks. Adding to David's question, I'm wondering about the subjects in the 'natural' photos. Do you try to get their permission to publish those entirely revealing shots (or did you when _Indecent Exposures_ came out), or just trust that they've not gone on to careers and situations where such revealing portraits might be problematical?
David Gans (tnf) Mon 6 May 02 14:06
Reminder: Those who are reading this off the WELL are invited to send questions or comments to email@example.com
Gary Lambert (almanac) Mon 6 May 02 14:28
And while we're on the subject of those commune shots, and what happened to your fellow communards -- I would love to hear more specifically about Ray Mungo. For those who don't know the name, Ray was one of the founders of the Liberation News Service (a 1960s effort to create an underground press equivalent to the AP, UPI or Reuters). His book about the making and unmaking of the LNS, "Famous Long Ago," is one of the great Movement memoirs, and a sad, clear-eyed view of the Left's infinite capacity for self-defeating internecine warfare (something that continues, alas, to this day). Not surprisingly, the book has a wonderful cover photo by Peter Simon. Peter, are you still in touch with Ray, and if so, what's he up to?
Gary Lambert (almanac) Mon 6 May 02 15:44
Oh, and also one of Ray's longtime co-conspirators, and owner of one of my alltime favorite names -- Verandah Porche!
excessively heterosexual (saiyuk) Mon 6 May 02 16:25
Hey! Watch it, lambert! As someone who worked at LNS *after* the Split, I take mild umbrage at "unmaking." The organization continued pretty effectively for a few years, even without the damned press. Knowing the people on "the other side," I always had to regard "Famous Long Ago" as a pretty novelized version of events -- not that there's anything wrong with that. We now return you to your regularly scheduled interview.
Gary Lambert (almanac) Mon 6 May 02 16:34
Objection noted, and apologies for any umbrage aroused!
Maryan Pelland (mkpelland) Mon 6 May 02 16:43
my family enjoyed the book - my 18 yr old commented that it must have been neat to live in a itme when everyone was naked. Having spent a great deal of time in the Haight, my husband and I felt right at home with the ideas presented in your book. Did you wear clothes when you photographed? Seriously - did you shoot with the idea of publishing, or just for your own self or as history?
Maryan Pelland (mkpelland) Mon 6 May 02 16:44
"itme" above translates as "time"
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Mon 6 May 02 17:06
Hi Peter. I happen to have a couple of photos you took back in ... in ... well, I think it was the spring of 1973. I admit that the late '60s/early '70s tend to blur a bit in my so-called mind. Anyway, I scanned them and put 'em up on my web page so you can look at them. http://www.well.com/~cdb/alun.html Do you remember shooting them? And what the heck were Alun and I doing there in Waikiki? Was Mark Almond doing a gig or were we on vacation? Also, what do you think of the pictures nearly 30 years later?
Peter Simon (paytesimon) Tue 7 May 02 06:15
Gosh - thanx for all these provocative questions. First of all for David: I still stay in touch with about half of my fellow communards. When I was writing the text, I actually tracked most of them each down to recollect and corroborate. It was very emotional to flash back to all those memories and feelings. Tim Rossner, Elliot Blinder, Catherine Marriot and Harry (believe it or not, we made up) I am still close with. Lacey Mason slightly less so....Each one is still alive (thankgod) and each one retains some of the values that we adhered to back then. We all feel it WAS a very special time; innocent and adventurous and full of deep sharing and lots of laughs. Would I do it all over again? Probably not. I think, in retrospect, those two years in Vermont compromised a budding career as a Boston based photojournalist. But obviously, I wanted to push the envelop, and forge a new lifestyle. In answer to "gobeyond," yes I did have to get written permission for the naked shots. But since I had gone through that process with my 1974 book "Decent Exposures," my new publishers relieved me by saying that a lawsuit wouldn't hold up in court, since the photographs had already been published once. For the few new shots in that chapter, I did have to get permissions. By the way, there are still PLENTY OF NUDE BEACHES around the world - two right here on Martha's Vineyard - but the spirit is somehow different now...less openness and slightly more fear at being ogled or come on to. Gary, I actually AM still in touch with Ray Mungo. He lives south of LA and is a social worker. I sent him a copy of the book and he wrote me back such a wonderful letter saying that he adored it and thought it was probably the most definative record of those crazy times. He has an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Verandah (whose real name is Linda Jacobs, by the way) still lives at the old farmhouse in Vermont and writes poetry.Most of that commune has long ago split up, however. To Marilyn - interesting question! I guess I knew the stuff I photographed back then would one day make it into book form. But as I wrote earlier, I was just born with some sort of compulsion to record the passage of time, mostly mine. It still seems strange to me that people don't walk around with hippie clothes and patchouli oil with flowers in their hair. It that time, I thought it would last forever. As an aside, I recall seeing an animated cartoon of Jerry Garcia and the Dead (probably in the late 70's) cleverly depicting what they would all look and act like in their old age. Garcia was in a wheel chair, smoking a joint, and saying "I never thought this long strange trip would last this long!!!" That was an eye-opener for me at the time. When you're young, you can't believe you are ever going to get old..... And finally Cynthia - I will check out your photos posted on the website. I wonder how many other people still keep these old shots I used to hand out. And finally - keep those questions coming. There is a lot more I can write about.
Peter Simon (paytesimon) Tue 7 May 02 06:21
Cynthia - just checked out the photos!!! I still like them, although I now probably would have used some fill in light on Alun's face and body. Are you still that gorgeous???
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